116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — Though Mohamed Traore has been a visible presence in the community for months — attending City Council meetings and leading the council-created Truth and Reconciliation Commission to help take on racial injustice — police acted on a nearly 2-year-old order to arrest him on a drunken driving charge shortly after the commission had ended its meeting last week.
Traore, 26, who was arrested outside City Hall, was booked at 9:42 p.m. Thursday in the Johnson County Jail and released after noon Friday, according to the jail roster. He could not be reached for comment Monday.
Fellow commission member Eric Harris said the timing of the arrest “doesn’t make sense at all.”
“It makes us all feel that we are at risk,” Harris said. “ … We're in the City Hall every other week. They could've done this a long time ago, so the timing is suspicious.”
Harris and others tried to go to the jail Friday to visit Traore but were told they couldn’t because Traore had to be in quarantine.
Harris said commission members feel on edge after the arrest, and the situation doesn’t help a tense relationship that has grown between the commission and the City Council that created it in the first place. The commission is tasked with gathering testimony in the community about racial injustices and fostering ways for people to share their stories.
Its members have faced roadblocks since the commission was created last year. The panel has been struck by resignations and is facing an uncertain future after the City Council rejected hiring a facilitator for it despite approving the budget for one.
The city released a statement acknowledging the arrest “could have been addressed in a more private manner removed from the context of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission meeting.”
"While I believe our officers were acting with the best intentions, I am keenly aware of the message the timing of this arrest sends to our community," police Chief Dustin Liston said in the statement. "We support the mission of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and will continue to work to build trust with members of the community."
The second offense OWI charge is from January 2019. Traore pleaded guilty in April 2019 and was sentenced to seven days in jail and fined, according to court records. If he had not surrendered within 120 days to serve the jail time, records show, police could pick him up on a mittimus order.
Johnson County Attorney Janet Lyness said it is her understanding that Traore hadn’t served all of his jail sentence.
“A mittimus order means that any officer who encounters a person with a mittimus out, they should pick up that person and deliver them to jail to serve the sentence,” Lyness said. “This happens frequently when judges allow people to schedule their jail sentence so people don’t go to jail immediately when they are sentenced. Then people never show up to actually serve their sentence.”
Lyness said during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic the county was trying to keep individuals out of the jail, so officers were not picking up people on such orders. “I am sure there are a lot of people in this situation, and the police are trying to find these people and get them to serve their sentence,” Lyness said.
Traore told the Iowa City Press-Citizen last week he was not aware there was a warrant out for him or that he hadn’t served his full sentence. His probation officer did not tell him about it, Traore said.
Traore will need to serve the rest of his sentence by Jan. 1, according to court records.
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