116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — A former state trooper will be retried Oct. 11 on a charge of using unreasonable force on a Davenport motorcyclist during a 2017 traffic stop.
A federal judge declared a mistrial for Robert James Smith of Durant after a jury, following a four day trial, reported it couldn’t reach a unanimous verdict last Friday. Smith is charged with deprivation of rights under the color of law — use of unreasonable force that causes bodily injury.
U.S. District Judge C.J. Williams, in an order Monday, reset the trial to Oct. 11.
Smith is the first law enforcement officer charged in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa in years, according to prosecutors.
During last week’s trial, Smith testified he was concerned the motorcyclist, Bryce Yakish, then 20, was attempting to flee because of his speed, that his motorcycle had no plates, and how and where the cyclist finally pulled over on Sept. 25, 2017.
Smith, who was terminated from the Iowa State Patrol following an internal investigation of the arrest and allowed to retire in 2018, said Yakish seemed to be fleeing from him after he exited Interstate 80 at West Liberty. Smith said he had been parked in the median 3 miles from the exit, running radar when Yakish sped by him at 84 mph.
A video of the incident was shown to the jury throughout the trial. It showed Yakish getting off his motorcycle and raising his hands as Smith was coming at him with his gun pulled.
Smith struck the right front of Yakish’s helmet with his left hand — an “open palm strike,” which officers are trained to use as a defensive tactic if someone is resisting and not being compliant. Yakish’s head snapped back, and he fell backward onto his motorcycle, which also fell over.
Smith got out of his vehicle and approached Yakish with his gun drawn because he had safety concerns. He admitted he didn’t give any commands as he approached.
Yakish, now 25, testified he didn’t see Smith until he pulled off to go the gas station and then saw the lights and sirens on the trooper’s vehicle. Yakish said he motioned with his left hand — taking if off the clutch — where he was going to stop.
Yakish said after he got off his motorcycle, he saw the trooper walking quickly toward him — with a gun pointed.
He didn’t remember if Smith said anything to him before Smith hit him on the right front of his helmet, knocking him down.
Smith pulled him up and took him down on the ground — face-down — and put his knee on his neck and handcuffed his hands behind his back, Yakish testified.
During the trial, former supervisors of Smith’s, who are still with the Iowa State Patrol, testified they reviewed his report and dashcam video and took it up the command chain because Smith was holding his handgun and used an open palm strike on a compliant motorist.
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