A former Iowa State Patrol trooper pleaded guilty on September 26 to Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law.

According to court documents, on September 25, 2017 while Robert James Smith, age 58, was on patrol, he observed an individual on a motorcycle traveling on Interstate 80 at a speed above the posted limit and attempted to catch up to it. The motorcyclist exited Interstate 80 in Cedar County, Iowa, stopped the motorcycle and dismounted. Smith exited behind the motorcycle in his marked squad car, engaged the overhead lights and siren on his patrol vehicle and 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. The case went to jury trial in July 2022, 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 United States sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors. United States Attorney Richard D. Westphal of the Southern District of Iowa made the announcement and the Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating this case.