A deputy tased and sacked a California attorney who was whisked away in handcuffs after tensions flared inside a San Bernardino courtroom last year.
Late last month, Jaaye Person-Lynn was convicted of a misdemeanor that stems from the January 2019 encounter Person-Lynn had with courtroom deputies inside the San Bernardino Justice Center.
Records indicate the 37-year-old Los Angeles County attorney threatened a bailiff and ignored two deputies’ orders when they tried to stop him from approaching a courtroom clerk. A jury found him guilty of delaying or obstructing a peace officer in the discharge of his duties, a charge that carries a maximum sentence of a year in jail.
But Person-Lynn denies that, maintaining that the deputy pushed him then wrongfully arrested him simply because he wasn’t suited up in traditional courtroom attire.
“They just didn’t believe I was an attorney,” he told Atlanta Black Star this week. “I told them, they just didn’t believe me.”
Person-Lynn’s conviction last week drew the attention of national civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who suggested courtroom officers racially profiled Person-Lynn because they didn’t recognize him as an attorney based on how he was dressed.
“Usually POC (people of color) are profiled because they ‘fit a description,'” Crump wrote in his Oct. 1 tweet. “Jaaye Person-Lynn did NOT fit the description (aka stereotype) of a lawyer. Kicked out of court, tased, tackled AND arrested because officers did not believe Jaaye was a lawyer. There are 2 justice systems in America!!”
A Demand for Acquittal
The State Bar of California lists Person-Lynn as a Howard University law school alum who has been a licensed attorney in the Golden State since 2010. But he literally found himself on the wrong side of the attorney’s bar during a Jan. 10, 2019, courtroom clash.
Person-Lynn and his supporters were outspoken on social media for months, demanding that the criminal charges against him be dropped and pushing to have charges brought forth against the officer that tased him.
Colen Wiley, a Los Angeles filmmaker, sounded off in a series of tweets on Aug. 14 after he sent San Bernardino County District Attorney Jason Anderson an email calling Person-Lynn’s arrest a “gross miscarriage of justice” and requesting a dismissal of all counts.
Officials from the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office did not respond to multiple calls and emails from Atlanta Black Star this week.
“Would any of this have escalated to this point if Attorney Person-Lynn were a well-dressed white man in a similar position,” Wiley wrote. “We both know the answer to that question. It would NOT have.
“Even if Attorney Person-Lynn was a belligerent white man that was demanding that court officials bend to his will,” he continued, “he would not have been assaulted in such a manner. The reality is that Attorney Person-Lynn is not a white man. He is a black man.”
Those efforts were all for naught. A jury on Sept. 29 determined that Person-Lynn obstructed officers by moving a deputy’s hand off his chest.
Testy Courtroom Exchange
Video footage, which Person-Lynnn shared on Instagram on Sept. 25, showed much of the verbal exchange that led up to his arrest.
The video shows him enter a nearly empty courtroom dressed in slacks and a dashiki-print shirt as proceedings appear to be at a pause.
San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Deputy Paul Barrie, who was serving as a custody deputy, stopped Person-Lynn when he walked past the attorney’s bar and attempted to approach a clerk seated near the judge’s bench. Barrie pointed Person-Lynn toward a seating gallery for the general public. Moments later, Kimberly Sutton, the courtroom’s bailiff, also pointed Person-Lynn to the seating gallery.
Person-Lynn recalled to ABS that when he told Barrie he was an attorney, the deputy instructed him to check in with the bailiff. He turned toward Sutton’s desk and he was reaching for his bar card to identify himself when Barrie shoved him away from attorney’s desks. That’s when he said he felt violated.
“He believed it was impossible that I was an attorney,” he said of Barrie. “I think that’s a huge part of the racial dynamic. This young, Black man coming in wearing African attire, it’s impossible for him to be an attorney.”
According to a San Bernardino County arrest report, deputies questioned several attorneys and judicial aides who witnessed the incident. Many of them told investigators it was courtroom procedure for attorneys to check in with the bailiff. They described Person-Lynn as “aggressive,” “agitated” and didn’t appear to be an attorney. One judicial assistant told investigators he was “dressed like a defendant.”
But Person-Lynn claimed that Barrie provoked him. He acknowledged that it’s customary for attorneys to come into a courtroom wearing a suit and tie, noting that’s ordinarily his custom. He explained that he was dressed casually that day because he was simply trying to change a court date.
“I’ve never been handled like that in a court setting,” he said. “The courtroom, as an attorney, should be a place that you’re protected. Everybody can step out of line, but I had not done anything to warrant him pushing me.”
Person-Lynn fumed at Barrie after the deputies escorted him into a vestibule just outside the courtroom’s doors.
“You fucked up. You put your hands on me,” he could be heard saying on the video as he read Barrie’s badge. “Deputy Barrie. I’m definitely coming after you. I promise you with everything I have, everything I’ve learned in law school, I’m definitely coming —”
Barrie took those words as a physical threat, according to the deputy’s arrest report. He zapped Person-Lynn with his stun gun then took him to the ground and handcuffed him as several more deputies rushed into the fray.
“Don’t tell me you’re coming after me and you step up on me,” Barrie is heard telling Person-Lynn over the sound of his throttling stun gun. “You understand what I’m telling you? That’s a threat…You don’t square off, clench your fists, tell me you’re coming after me and then step up to put the hit down on me dude.”
Eight deputies led a handcuffed Person-Lynn through the courtroom and out of a side door moments later. He was booked into jail.
Person-Lynn said he was never threatening to physically attack Barrie and denied ever stepping toward him. But jurors determined he ignored a number of Barrie’s commands and tried to force his way past deputies.
San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Sgt. Mauricio Hurtado said the agency conducted a use-of-force investigation, which determined Barrie’s actions were justified.
Hurtado pointed to the fact that the district attorney’s office independently reviewed the case and sought charges against Person-Lynn, who was duly convicted by a jury.
“Mr. Person-Lynn entered a restricted area of the court and when he was approached by the bailiff of the court and just asked to identify who he was and what he needed, he refused to cooperate with the deputies’ orders,” Hurtado said when asked to respond to the allegations of racial profiling.
But the battle doesn’t appear to be over. Person-Lynn is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 6. He said he plans to appeal his conviction and file a civil lawsuit against Barrie and the sheriff’s office.
“I had the right to be there,” he said. “The people that say I just should’ve followed their commands … I had a job to do. I was working. I’m the one that got resisted, delayed and obstructed from my duties. So it’s like what would you expect an attorney that’s charged with standing up for the rights of their clients to do? Just give up their own rights?”