Former Iowa State Patrol officer pleads guilty to violating biker's rights

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A former Iowa State Patrol trooper who was captured on cruiser dash camera video hitting and knocking over a biker during a traffic stop in 2017 has pleaded guilty to a federal count of violating the biker’s rights, prosecutors said Wednesday.

Robert Smith, 58, pleaded guilty Monday to deprivation of rights under color of law, federal prosecutors said in a statement. As part of his plea, Smith admitted that this intentional open-hand strike was an unreasonable use of force against Bryce Yakish.

Smith pulled Yakish over for speeding in September 2017. Prosecutors said Yakish was standing by his bike with his hands up when Smith, unprovoked, struck Yakish, knocked him to the ground, put a knee on his neck, handcuffed and falsely arrested him.

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Former Iowa State Patrol Trooper Robert Smith in an altercation with Bryce Yakish during a traffic stop in 2017. Smith has pleaded guilty to a federal count of violating the biker’s rights, prosecutors said on Sept. 28, 2022. 

Former Iowa State Patrol Trooper Robert Smith in an altercation with Bryce Yakish during a traffic stop in 2017. Smith has pleaded guilty to a federal count of violating the biker’s rights, prosecutors said on Sept. 28, 2022. 
(Cedar County Attorney’s Office via AP, File)

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Investigators said Smith falsely accused Yakish of trying to flee and charged him with eluding law enforcement, even though Yakish stopped immediately after Smith activated his patrol car’s lights and siren. The charge against Yakish was dropped after a prosecutor reviewed the video and concluded it was baseless.

The state of Iowa later paid Yakish $225,000 to settle a lawsuit filed over the arrest.

The case prompted scrutiny into other allegations of misconduct against Smith, who left the patrol in 2018 after a 30-year career. He was later hired as an officer in the small town of Durant, Iowa, but resigned after the video’s release in 2019. That year, the Cedar County sheriff announced he would no longer book any suspects arrested by Smith at his jail because he could not vouch for the officer’s credibility.

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A federal district court judge will determine Smith’s sentence at a later date.

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