I just recently listened to the Truth & Justice podcast about Bob Ruff’s student Abenicio Cordoba-Wilson, and quite frankly, I’m pissed. For those of you who have not taken the time to listen to Truth & Justice, I highly recommend it if you’re interested in criminal justice reform. Bob Ruff takes deep dives into cases where he believes justice was not served. This case hits close to home for Bob, as he knows both the victim and the officer involved.
The Facts of the Case
Abenicio (Abi) is a college student on his way home at night and he gets pulled over by a Michigan State Trooper. The reason cited for pulling him over was having a dim or non-functioning license plate light. The majority of the traffic stop was recorded by Abi on his phone.
The trooper initially approaches the passenger side of the vehicle. This is a common practice that allows the trooper to stay safer at night when passing motorists may not be able to see him. Abi’s passenger-side window doesn’t roll down, so he unlocks the door and the trooper talks to him through the open door.
As the trooper is talking to Abi through the open door, he is shining his flashlight into the car. Abi then tells him that he is not consenting to a search of his vehicle and he begins to film the interaction on his cell phone. He then says to the officer, “Sir, can you please get away from my car, because you are invading my privacy in this moment in time.” Abi then seems to try to shut the passenger side door, at which point The trooper states, “Do not shut the door, otherwise I’m gonna rip you out by your face.”
Abi asks the trooper to come over to his side of the vehicle where the window works, but the trooper stays on the passenger side and calls for another unit. He then asks Abi for his driver’s license and Abi begins to look for it. His car is a mess and you can see him frantically looking through papers for his license.
As he is doing this, Abi says, “God, you are so awesome.” He then asks the trooper, “How’s your day going, sir?” to which the trooper replies, “It’s going great.” The trooper then asks Abi again if he has his license. Abi says yes, and continues to look for it. A few seconds pass, and the trooper asks again, “Do you have your license, or no? You have five seconds to give me your license.” Abi replies that he is still looking, which prompts the trooper to tell Abi to get out of the car. He repeats this command while Abi continues to search for his license. The trooper walks to the driver’s side of the car and begins to take Abi out. Abi, trying to turn his phone off, does not comply immediately by putting his hand behind is back, but does so as soon as he turns his phone off. The entire interaction only lasts about two-and-a-half minutes. Now, let’s discuss a few things about this.
Why was Abi Pulled Over?
The initial reason for the stop, dimmed or non-functioning plate lights…bullshit.