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Charlotte lawyer to represent former Punky Brewster actor in racial profiling claims

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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -

A Charlotte lawyer says he will be representing a Hollywood couple who claims they were racially profiled while on vacation in South Carolina.

Ken Harris, a Charlotte attorney is representing Dennis White and Cherie Johnson. White was in the film 'Notorious' and Johnson is best known for her roles in 'Punky Brewster' and 'Family Matters.'

He sat down with WBTV Friday morning.

Harris said it all started after a sheriff's deputy pulled them over for speeding near Myrtle Beach on September 22.

"They were just two individuals who were doing a little sightseeing and ended up handcuffed on the side of the highway," he said.  

Harris told WBTV the couple claims they were improperly stopped and racially profiled by a Marion County Sheriff's deputy.

The couple had pulled to the side of the road next to a cotton field to take in "the history and the oppression that those little white balls created decades ago," White states in his account. According to White, Marion County Deputy S. Barfield pulled up behind their car, ran their registration, and began to ask White and Johnson a "plethora of questions."

"He started asking me if there were drugs in the car. He asked me if I had marijuana. He asked me if I had cocaine. He asked me if I had prescription pills. I said, ‘no sir I don't do drugs, I don't have anything'," Johnson said.

Deputy Barfield told White that Johnson had a warrant for her arrest, handcuffed both of them, and later admitted that she did not have a warrant, the report states.

According to White, deputies repeatedly asked to search his vehicle, and when they did, they found nothing.

"He un-cuffed us and let us go. No apology, no nothing," White said. "At no point in history is this justified, especially not in this day and age…South Carolina has been known to treat African-American [sic] as second-class citizens. It's not right and it's not fair."

Harris says there some major questions regarding the incident.

"The ultimate question becomes whether or not this was a racial profiling incident," he said. "Whether or not there was any probable cause to stop them. Whether or not there are issues related to false imprisonment."

Harris also said they are looking for any possible witnesses.

"I would encourage any person who has information concerning this situation to contact us."

Harris said they haven't taken any legal action yet and will consider their next step after they've conducted their own investigation into what happened.

He also told WBTV both the FBI and South Carolina's SBI have opened investigations into the case.

In response to this incident, Marion County Sheriff Mark Richardson issued the following statement:

"Discrimination in any form, including racial profiling, is strictly prohibited by this department and as Sheriff of Marion County SC, I can assure you I will take immediate and appropriate action to investigate the allegations of racial profiling made by Mr. White and Ms. Johnson. This matter will be dealt with by an internal investigation within the department and I will also ask the State law Enforcement Division to review the allegation made against Deputy Barfield."

Copyright 2013 WBTV. WMBF News contribute to this report. All rights reserved.

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