A former Iowa State Patrol Trooper was indicted by a federal jury on Nov. 4 for attacking a motorcyclist in 2017.
Robert James Smith is charged with depriving a victim of "the right to be free from the use of unreasonable force by a law enforcement officer," according to the indictment. The indictment says Smith committed this offense while acting as an Iowa State Patrol Trooper on Sept. 25, 2017.
On that date, Smith conducted a traffic stop on a motorcyclist, Bryce Yakish, on Interstate-80 in Cedar County. During the stop, Smith pointed his gun at Yakish and and knocked him down for no apparent reason, which can be seen in a dash cam video released by the Cedar County Attorney's Office in 2019. The traffic stop starts at 2:05.
In an arrest affidavit in which Smith charged Yakish with eluding, Smith didn't mention his use of force and claimed he had activated his lights and sirens while following Yakish on the interstate, but the video shows Smith didn't activate his siren until right before he stopped Yakish, who had pulled off the interstate to stop at a convenience store.
The video was released in July 2019 after pressure from Cedar County Sheriff Warren Wethington, who spoke out against Smith's actions after Smith left the Iowa State Patrol in 2018 and was hired as a police officer in Durant, Iowa. Wethington refused to book suspects arrested by Smith into the county jail, claiming Smith's judgement couldn't be trusted.
Smith resigned as an officer in Durant two weeks after the video footage was made public.
Yakish's eluding charge was downgraded to reckless driving, and he paid a $250 fine.
In September 2019, Yakish, of Davenport, filed a civil lawsuit against Smith in Cedar County. The lawsuit claimed that after Smith knocked Yakish over, Smith dragged Yakish away from the motorcycle and placed his knee at the junction of Yakish's motorcycle helmet and neck. It also said Yakish required chiropractic treatment for a neck injury caused Smith's actions.
The lawsuit was transferred to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Iowa, the same court in which Smith has now been indicted. The two parties of the lawsuit reached a settlement in March of this year and the suit did not go to trial.