Hogsett Announces Indictment of Putnam County Sheriff’s Deputy
Deputy Used Excessive Force on Citizens on Four Occasions
|U.S. Attorney’s Office March 10, 2014|
TERRE HAUTE—U.S. Attorney Joseph H. Hogsett and the Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Indianapolis Division, Robert A. Jones, announced this afternoon the arrest and indictment of Terry Joe Smith, a/k/a T.J., age 37, of Greencastle, Indiana. Smith serves as a deputy with the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department and is also a member of the Greencastle Common Council.
The federal indictment, which was unsealed this morning, charges Smith with four counts of federal civil rights violations. The indictment alleges that Smith used excessive force against citizens on four occasions in his capacity as a Putnam County Sheriff’s deputy. These incidents occurred near Moore’s Bar in Greencastle, on West Stardust Road in Cloverdale, at the Lazy Acres trailer park in Greencastle, and at the Cloverdale Truck Stop.
The allegations contained in the indictment include Mr. Smith’s use of a Taser against an individual after that individual had already been restrained; punching another individual in the face after restraint; throwing yet another individual on the ground after the individual had been handcuffed, driving a knee into the person’s back while secured, remaining handcuffed and prone on the ground; and, finally, throwing a female to the floor and forcing her outside of a truck stop, placing her face down into lava rocks in below freezing temperatures without proper clothing and holding her down for an extended period of time.
Law enforcement officials are subject to criminal prosecution whenever evidence exists that they knowingly abused this authority and deprived individuals of their constitutional rights. Such acts of misconduct, known as acts committed under color of law, include allegations of excessive force.
“Our message has been consistent over the last year, but bears repeating today: it doesn’t matter to me what your politics are or what position you hold in your community,” Hogsett said. “If you violate the public trust, our Public Integrity Working Group will find you, will investigate you, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office will then prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law.”
“There is no acceptable level of corruption or abuse of power. To this end, earlier this year, the FBI created a new public corruption and civil rights squad that will conduct more focused efforts on these violations,” stated FBI Special Agent in Charge Robert A. Jones.
Hogsett 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.
FBI Indianapolis Division Special Agent in Charge Robert A. Jones stated, “Of the over 300 violations of federal criminal law investigated by the FBI, few are more important than civil rights. Color of law violations are especially egregious because they erode the community’s trust. The vast majority of police officers are well-trained, professional and exceedingly careful with the use of force. Those few that violate their oath to protect and serve will be held accountable.”
According to Assistant United States Attorneys Bradley A. Blackington and MaryAnn T. Mindrum, who are prosecuting the case for the government, Smith could be sentenced to up to 10 years in federal prison for each count and could also face significant fines and federal supervision for up to three years once he has served his prison term.
Hogsett acknowledged the critical role that whistleblowers often play in prosecutions of public corruption. He urged anyone with information relating to alleged criminal activity to contact the U.S. Attorney’s Office public corruption hotline at (317) 229-2443.
An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the government must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.