On February 17 2020, an odd story came out of Cedar Rapids, Iowa via The Gazette, about the arrest of a man who allegedly forced made a woman watch the mini-series Roots so that she might better understand her own racism:
A Cedar Rapids man [Robert Lee Noye, 52] who was arrested [February 17 2020] is accused of holding a woman captive and forcing her to watch “Roots” — a nine-hour miniseries that chronicles author Alex Haley’s family line from the capture and enslavement of his ancestor Kunta Kinte to the liberation of Kinte’s descendants.
When she tried to move, Noye told her to “remain seated and watch the movie with him or he would kill her and spread her body parts across Interstate 380 on the way to Chicago,” the complaint said.
Mugshots paired with a sensational headline are often employed by “fake news” or “junk news” sites imitating small local outlets, and The Gazette was a small-city paper. Because of this, many readers encountering the story — including us — were skeptical it was authentic.
Not long after its publication, the news was aggregated to other outlets across the country:
A criminal complaint stated Noye forced the victim to watch the show, which is a nine-hour historical miniseries about slavery in the U.S. through the post-Civil War era, “so she could better understand her racism.”
The complaint also stated the suspect told the victim he would “kill her and spread her body parts across Interstate 380 on the way to Chicago” if she did not sit and watch the show.
We contacted the very responsive Cedar Rapids Police Department, and we spoke to an officer who confirmed that the report was accurate. They also sent over a brief release with additional detail about Noye’s arrest:
Robert Lee Noye, DOB [redacted] age 52, was arrested for False Imprisonment and Assault Domestic Abuse Simple. The victim, a 37-year old female, was not allowed to leave a room where the suspect was keeping her. The victim dialed 911 and had an open line with the Joint Communications Center (Cedar Rapids 911 dispatch center). Dispatchers could hear the victim asking to leave and the suspect was screaming at her. The suspect is accused of harassing his girlfriend and threatening to commit a forcible felony by saying that he was going to kill her, then spread her body all over U.S. Interstate 380.
On February 17 at 12:14 a.m. Cedar Rapids police officers were dispatched to [redacted] for an open 911 line to the dispatch center with lots of screaming. Dispatchers and officers were able to use GPS to locate the area where the call was coming from and, after checking the neighborhood, determined the incident was occurring at 718 2nd Avenue SW. An intoxicated male, later identified as Robert Noye, answered the door. There was 37-year old female and 12-year old female inside the house who were both upset and crying. The suspect allegedly was calling the victim names while officers were present.
According to the victim, Noye was verbally assaulting her all night and she set up a bed in the basement to get away from him. According to the victim, Noye came downstairs and told her to get upstairs and watch the movie “Roots” to understand how racist she was while he continued to verbally assault her. He then made threats to kill her. The victim and her daughter went into a room upstairs where the suspect did not allow them to leave. The victim was able to call 911 and leave the line open.
The suspect was arrested and transported to the Linn County Jail.
The claim that a man was arrested for allegedly forcing a woman to watch Roots on February 17 2020 was genuine, not “fake news,” not “satire,” and not fabricated to capitalize on Black History Month or for any other reason; the suspect’s girlfriend is the alleged victim. The suspect was arrested and charged with first-degree harassment and false imprisonment.