Cedar Rapids man reacts to having his marijuana charge overturned

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CEDAR RAPIDS, IA (KCRG-TV9)-- An appellate court reversed a decision last month against Nathaniel Akers after ruling that the arresting officer had no probable cause to pull him over.

According to court records, on April 8, 2016 former Cedar Rapids Police Officer Nathan Baughan pulled over Nathaniel Akers because he says his taillight was out. The officer then smelled marijuana, and Akers was arrested after handing over the marijuana to Baughan.

Akers says his taillight was working, and there was no reason for the officer to pull him over. An appellate court ruled that the dash cam footage did not show that Akers’ taillight was out while he was driving, and that there was no reason to pull him over. That resulted in his marijuana charge being thrown out.

Akers believes he was being racially profiled when he was pulled over. He says, “If you're a black person, you're either a drug dealer or a gang banger to them, to the police."

He says he’s fallen on hard times since the arrest. He says, "When I got locked up, I ended up losing my job, I had to move, and upon moving no one will rent anywhere because I have a fresh drug charge."
Akers says he was shocked when the court overturned the original decision. He says, “It felt good that somebody saw the wrongdoing of the officer.”

Peter Riley of Tom Riley law firm says it's rare to see the court system ruling against an officer. He explains, “If more courts would do that, then maybe law enforcement officers that would try and stretch the truth to substantiate their stop will be more careful."

Police let Baughan go last September for conduct detrimental to the public service, but won't say anything else because it's a personnel matter. They do add that his termination had nothing to do with the recent court ruling. Akers thinks other people who have encountered Baughan should speak out.

He says, "You need to check into any arrest that he was on, because if he's willing to lie blatantly in court or on the stand, what are the cases he's lied on to get a conviction or find somebody guilty."

Regarding the claims of racial profiling, police say in a statement, “The Cedar Rapids Police Department prohibits bias-based profiling in traffic contacts, field contacts, and asset seizure and forfeiture efforts. No person shall be subject to any stop, detention, enforcement action, or search by members of this department when such stop, detention enforcement action, or search is based on bias-based profiling.

The traffic stop was April 8, 2016 and we are not aware of any allegation of racial profiling that has been submitted to the Cedar Rapids Police Department in relation to this incident.”