December 4, 2014

Former Putnam County Sheriff's Deputy Sentenced for Civil Rights Violations

TERRE HAUTE—Acting United States Attorney Josh J. Minkler announced this afternoon the sentencing of Terry Joe Smith, a/k/a T.J., age 38, of Greencastle, Indiana. Smith who served as a deputy with the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department was sentenced to 14 months by U.S. District Judge William T. Lawrence. Smith was found guilty after a jury trial in September of this year on two counts of deprivation of civil rights under color of law.

“The public has a right to expect better from their law enforcement officers,” said Minkler. “It is certainly a tragedy when a law enforcement officer with a family choses to violate the civil rights of our citizens, but it would be a far greater tragedy if T.J. Smith was not held fully accountable for his unlawful use of force in this case.”

Testimony at trial indicated that Smith used excessive force against citizens on two occasions in his capacity as a Putnam County Sheriff’s Deputy. These incidents occurred on West Stardust Road and at the Lazy Acres trailer park in Greencastle.

On one occasion Smith punched a victim in the face after other officers had secured the victim resulting in serious bodily injury. The second offense occurred at the Lazy Acres Trailer Park in Greencastle when Smith threw a handcuffed person to the ground and drove his knee into that person’s back while lying on the ground.

Law enforcement officials are subject to criminal prosecution whenever evidence exists that they knowingly abuse their authority and deprive individuals of their constitutional rights. Such acts of misconduct, known as acts committed under “color of law,” include allegations of excessive force.

“The FBI will vigorously pursue law enforcement officers who violate their sacred duty to protect and serve,” said Special Agent in Charge W. Jay Abbott. “The vast majority of law enforcement officers serve bravely and with great integrity in the performance of their duties.”

Minkler praised the outstanding law enforcement work by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The FBI is a leading partner in the U.S. Attorney’s Public Integrity Working Group, which was launched in April 2012 with the stated purpose of aggressively investigating allegations of public fraud, waste and abuse by public officials in Indiana.

According to Assistant United States Attorneys Bradley A. Blackington and MaryAnn T. Mindrum, who prosecuted the case for the government, Smith will serve two years of supervised release after his sentence.