A man wanted for murder spent nearly an hour convincing deputies in New Orleans to book him into jail after he was unable to produce identification, his attorney told InsideEdition.com.
Frank Sams Jr., 25, turned himself in to the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office Wednesday after learning a warrant for second-degree murder was out for his arrest in connection to the September killing of a gas station clerk.
Police said Sams and another man were caught on video robbing a Fuel Express Mart on Sept. 18. The store’s clerk, 58-year-old Olah Bessid, was found dead after being shot several times during the incident.
“It was a very serious situation,” lawyer Kelly Orians, who accompanied Sams to the jail, told InsideEdition.com. If convicted of second-degree murder, Sams faces a mandatory sentence of life in jail without parole.
“He was saying goodbye to his mother, his sister, his grandmother … there’s some chance that he may never see them outside a prison for the rest of his life,” Orians said.
But Orians said she was caught off-guard when she announced to a deputy at the jail her client wished to surrender himself.
“Her immediate reaction was, ‘Well, does he have an ID?’” Orians said.
Sams, who has previously been incarcerated and was currently on probation for possession with intent to distribute marijuana and possession of a firearm by a felon, had no state identification.
"Access to state ID is a huge issue for formerly incarcerated persons, so that was just striking to hear," Orians said.
After Sams said he had no state identification, the process to take him into custody came to a standstill.
“She was kind of befuddled,” Orians said of the deputy.
Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office General Counsel Blake Arcuri told InsideEdition.com no identification is required to be booked into the jail.
“Sams repeatedly provided an incorrect spelling of his name, thus the warrant for his arrest could not be located in the computer system,” he said. “As a result, staff asked for identification to assist with locating the warrant.
“Once the proper spelling was provided, the warrant was located and Sams was promptly booked,” Arcuri said.
But Orians said that was not the case. With Sams and a colleague who specializes in re-entry at her side, Orians said it took nearly 40 minutes to convince authorities to take her client into custody.
“I don’t think someone would turn themselves in on such a serious charge unless they were wanted,” Orians recalled telling a deputy. “That didn’t seem to resonate.”
She said about 15 to 20 minutes after arriving, Sams asked if he was free to go, and a deputy said yes.
“I said ‘Of course, you know, we’re not going to do that,’” Orians said she told Sams, who agreed to stay. “At that point, it just became bizarre … my entire adult life for the last 11 years, I’ve been fighting to keep people out of prison.”
The exchange between Orians’ party and authorities at the jail then began to grow “tense,” Orians said.
“[Deputies] said, 'Well, it’s illegal to not have an ID on you. We can take him for not having an ID,” she said.
And when her colleague, the re-entry specialist, expressed his frustration with the situation, he was also threatened with arrest, Orians said. “The lack of professionalism about a very serious situation ... struck me,” Orians said.
Orians said the standstill ended after she showed authorities a copy of a news article featuring Sams photo and the crime for which he was wanted.
“We dispute all of Mrs. Orians' account and find it unfortunate that a publicity attempt has prompted those misrepresentations,” Arcuri said. When asked how long it took for deputies to book Sams, Arcuri said he was taken into custody as soon as he provided his “actual name.”
But Orians stood by her account of the exchange and said it was documented on camera.
“I made a point of looking to see if there were cameras on us when I first realized this situation was not going to be the professional exchange I anticipated,” she said. “I was especially concerned about video footage when my colleague was threatened with arrest.
“This is certainly not about publicity,” she continued. “As a defense attorney, I am not particularly proud of being in media for turning a client into law enforcement. Nevertheless, this shocking situation did occur, exactly as it has been portrayed, and now that the Sheriff’s office is paying attention I hope it encourages necessary reform, new policies and procedures, and most importantly, more thorough training on professionalism for deputies.
“I hope this story also draws attention to the fact that formerly incarcerated people struggle immensely to get proper identification when they are released from custody,” Orians said. “State identification is important for people to have, and necessary in many situations.
"If there is some good that comes out of this situation it’s my hope that more members of law enforcement will become aware of this struggle, and do what they can to help formerly incarcerated people access identification when they are released from jails and prisons.”
Sams is now being held in lieu of $500,000 bail. The Orleans Public Defenders will handle his case. He plans to plead not guilty, Orians said.