A deputy stopped a speeding car on a stretch of South Carolina highway in August, got the driver’s license and headed to his patrol car.
There, he spoke bluntly to his partner. He called the car’s occupants members of the Taliban and “graduates of suicide bomber school.” He joked that the men likely carried the Koran.
A camera on the deputy’s cruiser captured his words, according to documents filed by a defense attorney Friday in U.S. District Court.
Those offhand remarks may prove costly for the government’s case against suspended University of South Florida students Youssef Megahed and Ahmed Mohamed, legal experts say.
“It’s not very often you get such a revelation of somebody’s racial bias or bigotry,” said Eddie Suarez, a Tampa defense attorney. “It’s very rare you can get such pinpoint evidence of that. It could be very useful.”
Berkeley County Sheriff’s Deputy Lamar Blakely’s comments taint the entire investigation and should prevent the government from using any evidence gathered during the traffic stop, assistant federal public defender James W. Smith III argued in a motion.
The deputy also questioned Megahed about the car’s contents without giving him the Miranda warnings, which would advise Megahed of his rights against self-incrimination, according to the motion. It’s unclear from the document at what point in the investigation Megahed was placed in custody and handcuffed. . .
“Shockingly, on the video, Deputy Blakely even expresses concern over the fact that his ethically-inappropriate remarks were being recorded by his in-vehicle video recorder,” Smith wrote.
“These and other inappropriate, ethnically-stereotyping comments occurred prior to the search and discovery of any items in the vehicle and shockingly illustrate that Deputy Blakely’s decision to search the vehicle was not based on reasonable suspicion of unlawful acts, but upon nothing more than his own biased, unlawful racial profiling.” . . .
The spokesman for a bay area Muslim advocacy group found the allegations against Blakely “disturbing.”
“Somebody screwed up here and it may be costly,” said Ahmed Bedier, executive director of the Tampa office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “It will raise doubt about how this investigation was triggered.”