Fired Cedar Rapids Police officer Lucas Jones is seeking to delay his appeal hearing until next month to enable the proceedings to be held publicly and in person.
According to a motion filed this week, former Sgt. Lucas Jones and Police Chief Wayne Jerman “jointly request that the (Civil Service) Commission continue the two-day trial in this appeal” until September.
The trial, scheduled for Aug. 18 and 19, initially was going to be partially virtual. The plan called for those directly involved with Jones’ appeal of his dismissal to be physically present for the proceedings while allowing those interested in viewing the trial to do so via Facebook Live.
According to Jones’ motion, it was suggested during one of the Commission meetings that the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Cedar Rapids Convention Complex serve as a possible venue that could accommodate proper social distancing and other precautions.
Roughly a week later — on July 31 — the Commission voted to hold the hearing entirely online, presumably due to COVID-19 concerns. That came despite objections from Skylar Limkemann, Jones’ attorney, who argued the move threatened his client’s right to due process.
“Obviously there are implications, not only for his job, but he has a liberty interest and a property interest in his livelihood,” Limkemann told The Gazette after the July 31 meeting.
If the commission upholds Jones’ dismissal, he said, the Cedar Rapids Police Department could recommend the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy permanently decertify Jones as a law enforcement officer.
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“The proceedings in this case have a large impact not only on Lucas’ employment, but on his future employment,” Limkemann said, adding that he and his client had a “strong preference” for in-person proceedings.
And according to the motion, it appears Chief Jerman agreed that an in-person proceeding was preferred.
“The parties jointly state that an in-person trial of this appeal before the Commission is in the parties’ best interests for legal, logistical and practical reason,” the motions reads.
The motion requests the Commission continue the trial “in the interests of health and safety, fairness and “transparency.”
The continuation, according to the motion, will “allow time for the attorneys to address technology requirements with the city for the presentation of their cases at trial.”
The motion says Jones and the police department agreed that Sept. 22 to 25 would prove a good time for both parties to hold the trial.
Jones — a white police officer who shot and paralyzed Jerime Mitchell, a Black Cedar Rapids resident, during a traffic stop — was fired on June 18 after what the police department described as a monthslong investigation into accusations he violated rules and policies during a different traffic stop on Oct. 30, 2016.
A document released by the city in June contends Jones intentionally disabled a body-worn microphone that would have recorded his interactions with the driver during that 2016 traffic stop and then lied to internal affairs investigators and again in a court deposition.
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That traffic stop came two days before Jones shot Mitchell, on Nov. 1, 2016, on lower Coe Road NE. Jones’ microphone was not working during the Mitchell traffic stop, either, though authorities have yet to give a full account as to why it wasn’t.
In his appeal, filed July 2, Jones contended his firing was retaliation for writing a memo in January, before learning he was the subject of an internal affairs investigation, to Lt. Ryan Abodeely — the commander of the department’s Professional Standards Division — detailing claims from two female officers about inappropriate conduct of a male patrol officer.
In the memo, a copy of which The Gazette reviewed, Jones stated he was approached by two female officers on Dec. 29, 2019, who detailed multiple instances of sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct by a male patrol officer.
The officers’ names were redacted from the copy of the memo reviewed by The Gazette.
Limkemann, Jones’ attorney, said the memo will be used as part of his client’s defense in the appeal of his termination.
The appeal asserts the internal affairs “investigation, disciplinary process and punitive action taken by Chief Jerman and the CRPD … violates (Jones’) constitutional rights, including his right to procedural due process under both the United States and Iowa constitutions.”
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