A Virginia police detective up against a racial profiling lawsuit is no longer in the clear for allegedly using a traffic stop as reasoning to search a Black couple’s home.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit on Monday ordered a federal district judge to reconsider the 2016 case tossed out in 2018 against Albemarle County Police officer Andrew Holmes, NBC 29 reported.
In that case, attorney Jeff Fogel argued that not only were his clients Bianca Johnson and Delmar Canada the targets of a racially biased home search but that Holmes has a history of pulling over Black drivers in luxury cars to search for drugs.
“He had conducted searches for drugs and there were no drugs,” Fogel told NBC.
In each of those incidents the person stopped was black and in most cases
“driving a very nice car,” Fogel said.
“We found out the officer made 1,200 stops and issued 600 summonses,” Fogel told NBC.
Holmes admitted in testimony from the March 2018 trial that he was parked near a 7-Eleven, running the license plates of vehicles through a records system when he ran the plates of Johnson’s BMW.
Holmes said in the testimony this kind of work “is necessary because no one drives around with signs on the side of their car that say, ‘I’m carrying drugs.’”
But after running Johnson’s plates, he also searched people associated with her and Canada came up, according to The Daily Progress newspaper.
So when Holmes saw Canada leave the 7-Eleven and drive the BMW, the officer pulled him over allegedly for driving on a suspended license, the newspaper reported.
Canada told Holmes he wasn’t aware his license was suspended and that he had paid $1,500 to get his license back after failing to make child support payments, according to a court opinion The Daily Progress obtained.
Holmes got a warrant to search the couple’s house for a notice informing Canada of the suspension but the couple said his real intent was to look for drugs, The Daily Progress reported.
“The thing about a piece of paper is it could be anywhere, so it gives the officer the ability to search the entire residence,” Fogel told the paper.
Still, federal Judge Norman Moon dismissed the case in 2018 when Fogel failed to prove Holmes treated white and Black people differently, NBC reported.
“They showed significantly greater stops for blacks then would be expected given the graphics of the county or even of the sector of where he was working,” Fogel said.
An appeals court, however sided with Fogel on at least the decision that the case should be re-evaluated.
“Officers should know that if they engage in this kind of activity there are people who are watching, and who are willing to take it to the courts and are willing to pursue it for years if it’s necessary,” Fogel told NBC.
Fogel told the news station he hopes to have a court date with the Charlottesville federal court scheduled in the next few months.