In the lobby of a luxury hotel in Atlanta, Ben Crump is meeting a new client for the first time. His face is round and somber as a war mask. He’s wearing a dark suit, a crisp white shirt with French cuffs, gold cuff links, a heavy gold watch, and a thick gold wedding ring. On his left lapel, a gold Eagle of Justice spreads its wings.
Like many of the lawsuits Crump takes on, this one seems destined to make national headlines. But unlike the explosive battles that made him famous—he represented the families of Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown Jr., Tamir Rice, Alesia Thomas, and Terence Crutcher and has worked on many, many less notorious Black Lives Matter cases—this one doesn’t involve a grieving relative, police violence, or a dead child. The man seated across from him is a successful financial-services executive, dressed with casual elegance in a dark blazer and knit shirt, who was educated at a prestigious HBCU and is accompanied by an old friend who happens to be a former state representative. His trouble started, he says, when he went into the wrong bank to cash a $2,000 check and the teller told him to wait while he checked with the branch manager. “I asked him if there was a problem, and he told me, ‘No, it’ll just be a second,’ ” the executive says. “Then a policewoman comes up and says, ‘I’m here for you.’ ” He laughs. “I thought she was just being friendly! Maybe she’s