Jury acquits campaign worker who cited racism for arrest

May 1, 2019

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — An Iowa jury has acquitted a black political campaign worker who was arrested after refusing to identify himself to police in a Des Moines suburb.

Keilon Hill, 24, was found not guilty Tuesday of misdemeanor harassment of a public official or employee. His attorney, Gina Messamer, said in her motion to clear the case from court records that the jury’s verdict after only 15 minutes of deliberation shows how weak the case was against Hill.

“A compelling argument can be made that Mr. Hill should never have been charged with an offense,” Messamer wrote.

Hill, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was canvassing a West Des Moines neighborhood last October for a Republican political action committee in support of U.S. Rep. David Young when a resident called 911 to report a suspicious person. Police said two officers tried to stop and talk to Hill in relation to that call.

Prosecutors argued that Hill kept the officers from doing their jobs by being defensive when approached and by walking away.

“I would have some serious doubts about whether this would happen to a white person,” Messamer told The Des Moines Register after the verdict was delivered. She said Hill and the officers could have handled the situation differently, but that her client did nothing criminal.

“That was really just a charge they stuck me with because they didn’t like my attitude,” Hill said, adding that he, too, thinks his skin color played a role in his arrest.

The West Des Moines department has declined to comment on the verdict.

Young eventually lost his bid for a third term to Democrat Cindy Axne.