Race to the Courtroom

“Fair and equal treatment is the bedrock principal of this country,” Darold Killmer told an ever-filling federal courtroom downtown yesterday afternoon. “All of us have the right to not be falsely branded as a terrorist, criminal or thief.” Who exactly violated that right for Qusair Mohamedbhai, Killmer’s client, and the damages they owe because of it will be the subject of much debate over the next week, with yesterday’s jury-selection process and opening statements already revealing a complicated corporate racial profiling case, first profiled here, where no one seems ready to call off their dogs.

On May 29, 2004, Mohamedbhai, a Canadian citizen of East Indian descent living and working legally in the United States attempted to open a bank account at a Denver Commercial Federal Bank (now Bank of the West). The clerk at the bank ran a standard background check through Colorado Cheque Connection, owned by a one Genevieve Babcock-Elder, only to be wrongly informed that Mohamedbhai was a terrorist.

Mohamedbhai was not informed of his incorrect terrorist status, he was simply told he could not open an account, so he eventually moved on to another bank where he opened an account without any incident. Several weeks later, a friend of Mohamedbhai’s attended a marketing meeting for financial professionals where Babcock-Elder was the guest speaker. According to this same friend, Babcock-Elder explained to the assembly how she thwarted a terrorist from opening an account at a Commercial Federal Bank, spelling the name of that terrorist aloud: Qusair Mohamedbhai. Upon hearing of this from his friend, Mohamedbhai initiated legal actions against Babcock-Elder and Colorado Cheque Connection, sending a letter to Mrs. Babcock-Elder through his law firm informing her of his intentions. The messenger who delivered that letter swore testimony that upon receiving the letter, Mrs. Babcock-Elder uttered, “This must be about that camel jockey,” a fact that Babcock-Elder does not dispute.

While Mohamedbhai’s attorneys Killmer and co-counsel Mari Newman lobbed shots at both Colorado Cheque Connection and Commercial Federal Bank, Commercial Federal is cross-suing Colorado Cheque Connection, claiming the company bears sole responsibility for any wrongdoings. The trial is expected to take all this week. Stay tuned. --Adam Cayton-Holland

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Sean Cronin