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Nathaniel Dale

Summary of Benton Harbor Misconduct
On October 22, 2005, Officer Andrew Collins with the police department in Benton Harbor, Michigan, arrested 26-year-old Nathaniel Dale and charged him with possession of marijuana and possession with intent to distribute cocaine.

Collins said in his police report that a confidential informant had told him that drugs were being sold from a house on South Seely Street. In his arrest report, Collins said that he surveilled the house and saw Dale sitting on the front steps and reach into the overhang. He said in the report that Dale dropped a small baggie of marijuana from his hand while Collins searched him. Collins also said he saw a small baggie in the overhang that contained several rocks of crack cocaine.

Collins testified about the arrest at a pre-trial hearing on November 3, 2005 and later at Dale’s trial in Berrien County Circuit Court. A jury convicted Dale on both counts on January 13, 2006, and he was sentenced to between two and 20 years in prison on the cocaine conviction and 16-24 months on the marijuana conviction.

In February 2008, the police department fired Collins after a supervisor found a lockbox under a desk that contained cocaine, heroin, and marijuana. The cocaine was already packaged in small baggies. Collins was indicted on a single count of drug possession by a federal grand jury on November 26, 2008. Corporal Bernard Hall Jr., his supervisor, was indicted on July 16, 2009 on three counts: conspiracy to violate civil rights, giving false declaration to a grand jury, and giving a false statement to the FBI.

After the indictments, Berrien County Prosecutor Arthur Cotter began reviewing cases where Collins and Hall were the arresting officers. Cotter filed a motion to vacate Dale’s convictions and dismiss his charges on December 23, 2008. A judge granted the motions on December 30, 2008, and Dale was released from prison. Approximately 65 defendants had their convictions vacated based on misconduct by Collins and Hall.

Collins pled guilty in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan on January 26, 2009 to possession. He was sentenced to 37 months in prison. Hall pled guilty in U.S. District Court on August 25, 2009 to the conspiracy charge and was later sentenced to 30 months in prison.

Collins testified at Hall’s sentencing hearing that he and Hall embezzled from the police department by receiving reimbursement for drug buys that never happened. They also began taking money from defendants and then under-reporting the amount of cash recovered in the evidence reports.

“I think it got to the point where we would talk about it,” Collins said. “So I asked him, I said, ‘Do you think God cares if this is drug money that we are stealing?’ And he kind of, you know, shook his head and said, ‘I know, I know, it’s been hitting me too.’ We both said, ‘let’s stop, let’s stop, let’s start doing things right.’ Then, you know, just the addiction to the money, the next person we would arrest would have a couple thousand dollars on him, and we would take money from him. It just kept happening that way. We would try to stop, and then we wouldn’t.”

In the wake of the scandal, 85 plaintiffs – some whose charges were dismissed prior to trial – filed lawsuits against Collins, Hall, and the city of Benton Harbor.

In his lawsuit, Dale said that Collins planted the cocaine and marijuana and testified falsely at the trial and the pre-trial hearing.

Court records suggest about 90 percent of the plaintiffs settled their lawsuits. Most of the settlements, including the amount received by Dale, have not been publicly disclosed, although the handful that have been made public range between $28,800 and $176,160.

– Ken Otterbourg

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Posting Date: 9/13/2022
Last Updated: 9/13/2022
Most Serious Crime:Drug Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2005
Sentence:2 to 20 years
Age at the date of reported crime:26
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No