Judge releases deputy until trial

Provided Photo
Provided Photo

GREENCASTLE, Ind. (WTHI) – A Valley sheriff’s deputy, who finds himself on the wrong side of the law, fights to stay out of jail until his trial date. Putnam County deputy sheriff TJ Smith is charged with using excessive force. The allegations include smith using his taser on a man who was already in handcuffs.

Smith was back in court on Thursday for what’s called a “Detention Hearing.” In the federal system, you are either free in the time leading up to your trial date, or like in Smith’s case, the prosecution can argue to a judge that you should be kept in jail.

To recap, Deputy Smith, who is also a Greencastle City Councilman, faces four federal charges involving allegations he used excessive force while on duty. Smith is charged with punching, kneeing, and even tasing persons who were already in police custody.

But federal prosecutors didn’t stop there. They pointed to what they called Deputy Smith’s history of violent acts and dishonesty. In 1999, he was convicted in a misdemeanor battery case where the victim was a 3 year old girl. Smith admitted to hitting the girl on the hip, drawing blood. In 2001, the Indiana Boys School fired him from his correction officer position for using excessive force on two teen boys. In 2008, then-Putnam County Sheriff Mark Frisbee and Lone Star Cement both fired smith for ghost employment. Three years later, the incidents outlined in the indictment began.

Magistrate Judge Craig McKee ordered that Deputy Smith be released pending trial. We asked federal prosecutors if filing charges against a police officer could hurt the US Attorney’s relationship with other law enforcement agencies.

“I think that the officers and agents that we work understand what the standards are,” said Brad Blackington, a deputy US Attorney. “And frankly if the people in those departments were to engage in this type of behavior, it would undermine our ability to prosecute these cases.”

Deputy Smith is released on several conditions. For instance, he cannot have firearms or weapons of any kind, and this would include within the scope of his job as a deputy sheriff. Speaking of, Smith’s defense attorney indicated he will be placed on administrative leave with pay by Putnam County Sheriff Steve Fenwick.

Smith’s trial is set for april 28th.

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