Civil rights lawsuit filed in opposition to Iowa Metropolis, Johnson County in ‘strolling whereas Black’ case

IOWA CITY – A man arrested by Iowa City police on a case convicted by a federal judge as “Walking While Black” has filed a civil rights complaint against the city, Johnson County, arrest officers and an assistant district attorney involved in the arrest .

“I’m looking for calm and justice,” said Chris Kelly, the plaintiff in the complaint. “My mind can’t get over what happened, how they came after me, just because they wanted to. They didn’t care about the law, they didn’t care about my rights. They were so sure they would just get away with it. And they almost did. “

Kelly’s civil rights complaint and an August 20, 2020 ruling on a motion for repression drafted by Justice Stephanie Rose of southern District Iowa set out the allegations in the case. According to records, Johnson County assistant attorney, Jew, bought Pannell, on December 26, 2019 near Waterfront Hy-Vee, 1720 Waterfront Drive, came in when he called Iowa City Police Officer Travis Neeld, who was nearby about an unrelated call regarding suspicious behavior. Pannell told police he believed he recognized Kelly from a previous case and saw a bulge in his pocket. Pannell speculated it was a weapon.

“There is no evidence that the prosecutor saw Kelly commit illegal acts or see the contents of his coat pockets,” the suppression decision said.

According to records, Neeld Pannell passed the observation on to other police officers in the area. A few minutes later, Officer Niles Mercer saw Kelly leaving a gas station with a bag of food. While Kelly was leaving, officers discussed Kelly’s behavior and looked for a reason to stop him. Kelly was stopped for jaywalking.

Neeld approached Kelly about jaywalking and Kelly apologized, according to the records. Kelly was about to leave the encounter, but Neeld asked for his ID. After Kelly originally provided the name Marcus, Kelly was identified by an EBT card that showed his real name.

Neeld asked Mail to do a background check from “Christopher Kelly,” who had an active warrant against him. Chris Kelly, however, does not. Neeld did not confirm that he was speaking to the correct Kelly and went on to “teach Kelly about the sins of jaywalking,” the suppression rule states.

Authorities said Kelly tried to leave the encounter and other officers arrived at the scene. Kelly was ordered to put his hands on his head because he may have an arrest warrant that Kelly denied. The police “grabbed Kelly, forcibly threw him to the ground and verbally abused him twice,” the records say.

A search in Kelly’s pockets found a loaded pistol and a small jar of marijuana. He was arrested and charged with being a criminal in possession of a firearm. However, in her August ruling, Rose suppressed evidence in the case.

“This is a story about ‘Walking While Black’ … law enforcement agencies lacked any objective basis to suspect criminal misconduct,” wrote Rose. “Kelly wasn’t jaywalking, and neither the prosecutor nor the arrest officers had reasonable grounds to suspect that the item in his pocket was a weapon as opposed to any other personal item.”

The charges against Kelly were dismissed, but not before she had spent eight months in Muscatine County Jail. According to a press release announcing the civil rights complaint, Kelly has had trouble finding work, accommodation and has been intermittent homeless since his release.

“He is still plagued by the stress, depression, anger and humiliation associated with the trauma of the incident,” the press release said. “Iowa City and Johnson County refused to talk about settlement or reconciliation.”

The lawsuit alleges that Kelly underwent “treatment” in which officials illegally stop the blacks and then escalate the encounter. It is also alleged that the police and Pannell have been hiding conflicts of interest with no party revealing that Pannell initiated the encounter with Kelly.

The 12 points in Kelly’s lawsuit include illegal stopping and seizure; Use of excessive force; Racial profiling and discrimination; Cover-up and malicious persecution; Attack and battery; false arrest and imprisonment; and other. Kelly is seeking legal action and unspecified damages.

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