IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Several pending criminal cases brought by an Iowa police officer with a history of misconduct will be dropped because he is no longer a credible witness, a prosecutor said Tuesday.
Since Friday, the Cedar County attorney’s office has dismissed charges against four defendants who were arrested by Officer Robert Smith over the last year “in the interest of justice,” court records show. Cedar County Attorney Jeffrey Renander said that more will be dismissed in the coming days.
“We’re doing this because we no longer believe that we can obtain a conviction in any criminal case where Robert Smith is the primary or only witness for the state,” he said.
Smith resigned last week as an officer in the town of Durant, two weeks after dash-camera video was made public showing him striking a motorcyclist during a 2017 traffic stop. Smith was a 30-year trooper for the Iowa State Patrol at the time of that incident , in which he was criticized for using unnecessary force and filing a false eluding charge. He resigned from the patrol last year before his hiring in Durant.
Renander had previously continued to prosecute cases brought by Smith even though he had been aware of misconduct allegations related to the 2017 case. His office had notified defendants that Smith was the subject of a sealed “Giglio file” that detailed prior issues that their attorneys could review at the courthouse.
Smith’s past came to the public’s attention because the county sheriff took the unusual step of refusing to jail suspects arrested by Smith or his Durant colleagues.
The dismissed cases included two people who faced drug charges in separate incidents after they were pulled over by Smith for “defective muffler violations,” the passenger of a car whose driver had asked Smith for directions and a woman who was forcibly arrested by Smith outside a bar.
“I’m very excited. I think justice is served,” said Rashaud Lamar Lee, 31, of Iowa City, who said the officer used force against him during a May arrest.
A woman driving Lee had asked the officer for help finding a gas station. Smith ran their license plate and found the driver had a no-contact order out against Lee. The driver and Lee said that the order had been dropped.
But Smith claimed the order was still valid and that Lee gave him a false name, tried to dispose of a bag of marijuana during the arrest and had been drinking a bottle of whiskey found in the car.
Lee said the charges were false but could have sent him to prison because he was on probation for a previous theft case. He said Smith “threw me on the ground” and put his knee into his back during the arrest, and that he’s considering a lawsuit.
The dismissals came after the defense lawyer for an Illinois woman arrested outside a tavern had requested a court hearing to delve into Smith’s prior conduct. The lawyer, Eric Tindal, alleged that Smith had been subjected to more than two dozen internal affairs investigations while working at the patrol.
The woman had been taken to the ground by Smith after allegedly refusing his requests to produce identification. Smith reported finding marijuana during a later search of her car. Prosecutors agreed to suppress Smith’s testimony and dropped the charges.