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Press Release

Former Iowa State Patrol Trooper Pleads Guilty to Civil Rights Violation

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Iowa

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA – A former Iowa State Patrol trooper, Robert James Smith, age 58, pleaded guilty on Monday, September 26, 2022, to Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law.

According to court documents, on September 25, 2017, while Smith was on patrol, he observed an individual traveling on Interstate 80 at a speed above the posted speed limit. Smith attempted to catch up to the motorcycle. The motorcyclist exited Interstate 80 in Cedar County, Iowa, stopped the motorcycle and dismounted. In his marked squad car, Smith exited behind the motorcycle, engaged the overhead lights and siren on his patrol vehicle, parked near and quickly approached the victim. As the victim was standing next to the motorcycle with hands in the air, Smith delivered an open palm strike to the victim’s chin area. The force of the strike caused the victim to fall back over the motorcycle, after which Smith knelt on and handcuffed the victim, then stood the victim up. In his plea agreement, Smith admitted that this intentional open hand palm strike was with a bad purpose or improper motive to disregard the law and was an unreasonable use of force.

In July 2022, this matter preceded to jury trial, but the jury was unable to reach a verdict.

Sentencing in this matter has not been scheduled. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the United States Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

United States Attorney Richard D. Westphal of the Southern District of Iowa made the announcement. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating this case.


MacKenzie Tubbs

Updated September 28, 2022

Civil Rights