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Press Release

Former Iowa State Patrol Trooper Sentenced for Civil Rights Violation

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

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA – A former Iowa State Patrol trooper was sentenced on March 7, 2023, to two years of probation for deprivation of rights under color of law.

According to court documents, on September 25, 2017, Robert James Smith, 58, was on patrol and observed an individual traveling on a motorcycle 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, 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 with his pistol drawn and pointed at 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 a report about the incident, Smith wrote that he reached with his hand intending to take hold of the victim’s shoulder but instead inadvertently came into contact with the front side of his helmet. In his plea agreement, Smith admitted that his open hand palm strike was intentional, done with a bad purpose or improper motive to disregard the law, and was an unreasonable use of force.

Smith plead guilty in September 2022. Smith was also ordered to pay a fine of $7500.00.

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


MacKenzie Tubbs
Public Information Officer 

Updated March 14, 2023

Civil Rights