Smith released from federal custody while awaiting trial

Thursday, March 13, 2014
T.J. Smith

TERRE HAUTE -- Putnam County Sheriff's Deputy T.J. Smith will be free of custody as he awaits trial on four counts of deprivation of civil rights, a federal judge ruled Thursday.

Magistrate Judge Craig McKee denied the prosecution's motion for detainment, ruling that Smith is neither a flight risk, nor does he pose a serious risk to the safety of the community upon release.

However, Judge McKee also said Smith shall not be released strictly on his own recognizance, instead placing several restrictions on Smith.

First, Smith is not to carry a firearm or other weapon, even in the line of duty. He is further to have no weapons in his home, even those he and his wife possess for their occupations.

Second, Smith is to remain employed or seek other employment. The judge allowed this would be tricky, as Smith is not allowed to carry a firearm, but said he could be permitted to do any duties not requiring him to carry a weapon, such as desk work.

Defense attorney John Tompkins later clarified this would be no problem, as Sheriff Steve Fenwick has placed Smith on administrative lead pending further action by the Sheriff's Merit Board or the outcome of the case.

Fenwick advised that Smith's only duty will be to respond to subpoenas for pending court cases in which he is a witness.

As a third condition, Smith is restricted from international travel.

Fourth, the deputy is to have no contact with victims or witnesses. Again, the judge allowed that this requirement could be difficult, as some of the witnesses are other law enforcement officers. In cases in which contact cannot be avoided, Smith should steer the conversation clear of any talk of the case.

"Your safe zone is to avoid this subject," Judge McKee advised Smith. "You may not be able to avoid contact, but you can avoid the conversation.

Smith is also to report to a pre-trial services officer as he awaits trial to ensure that all other requirements are met. He should immediately report any behavior he believes may be problematic.

The 37-year-old Smith, who also serves on the Greencastle City Council, was arrested Monday morning on charges that he used excessive force in four different arrests bet-ween November 2011 and December 2013.

If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 10 years for each count, as well as up to $250,000 in fines for each.

Deputy U.S. Attorney Bradley Blackington filed the motion for detainment on Monday, saying Smith would be a danger to the community if released.

Blackington brought up a number of incidents from Smith's past beyond the allegations in the current trial. These included a 1999 misdemeanor conviction for battering a three-year-old and his 2001 termination as a correctional officer at the Indiana Boys School due to excessive use of force.

The prosecutor also brought up Smith's termination as a Putnam County Jail correctional officer and from Lonestar Industries for ghost employment. Smith is alleged to have been on the clock at one job while actually working at the other site.

Smith is supposed to have signed a letter saying he would never seek a job again from either employer. However, this document has not been located and after a change of sheriffs, he was hired as a merit deputy.

However, McKee said the burden of proof for detention had not been met, ruling that removal of firearms and restrictions of Smith's powers as a police officer greatly reduced the risk to the community.

The judge said Smith's past certainly illustrates a temper problem, but that an overall pattern of violence is something for the jury to rule on in the actual trial.

Additionally, the dishonesty of the ghost employment issue may be something to consider at a later date, it was not a matter for the court to consider Thursday.

Smith was temporarily remanded to the custody of U.S. Marshals for processing, but was freed later Thursday afternoon. His jury trial is set for Monday, April 28 before Judge William T. Lawrence.

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  • Lets hope justice is served. Is scary to read his past.

    -- Posted by ou812 on Thu, Mar 13, 2014, at 11:55 PM
  • You're right ou812 it is scary to read about Smith's past but did it specifically go into detail about it, not really. The truth is we all have something from the past that can sound much worse than what actually took place. I find much is the same about this case in general, everything sounds horrible when you read about it but we do not know the specifics and that is why there is a trial. I read everyones comments and find them amusing at best, it reminds me of what a small judgmental town Greencastle is and that is sad because it really is a beautiful place. What is also amusing is that Greencastle residents do not see what is right under there noses, this is an election year and what better time then the present to attempt and run Sheriff Finwick's name in the mud? Open your eyes Greencastle residents, you are witnessing a smear campagin at it's best.

    -- Posted by beheard04 on Fri, Mar 14, 2014, at 8:39 AM
  • No background check's for a potential armed employee? Who does the interview's mickey mouse?

    No red flag on a battery charge of a three year old? Ghost employment? Excessive force on a minor?

    WOW! Whoever hired this person should be charged a felony for stupidity!! I'am not sure how to feel right now! the thought process of the current administration there is scary to the people of putnam county.COME ON OUT OF RETIREMENT MR. LYONS.

    -- Posted by lj7656 on Fri, Mar 14, 2014, at 8:46 AM
  • beheard04,

    There is absolutely NO EXCUSE for battering a 3 year old. Also please note that this was not just an allegation but a CONVICTION. I'd like to hear from you the extenuating circumstances where it's acceptable to BATTER A 3 YEAR OLD! Also, I find it very hard to believe that the FBI really cares about the Putnam Co. Sheriff election enough to bring unsubstantiated charges. I think it is you who needs to open your eyes and stop making excuses for the Sheriff's department. Smith may turn out to be innocent of these charges but his past SHOULD have made him unemployable at the Sheriff's department.

    -- Posted by hometownboy on Fri, Mar 14, 2014, at 9:18 AM
  • Wow! Again, its not just about TJ the Sheriff's office is not even going to suspend him without pay??? So he can possibly go get records, etc. Obviously i dont know how that works...but really!!!?? This is the FBI, its not about the know TJ and Fenwick are "close" right next door...hell, he hired him knowing he was never supposed to work there again. Do you think the sheriff may be a bit blind when it comes to him. Then again..thank GOODNESS its an election year!

    -- Posted by peoplenotpolitics on Fri, Mar 14, 2014, at 9:34 AM

    -- Posted by ladycubs on Fri, Mar 14, 2014, at 9:43 AM
  • hometownboy, my apologies in reading my statement I do not see an excuse and also in reading this article I cannot see a battery charge but a misdemeanor charge (FYI this could be from spanking a child, which I am not saying is wrong or right). Also let me be CLEAR, I am not and will not make excuses for anyone, I do not now who is guilty or innocent just as no one knows except the people involved. In my statement I am simply challenging the residents of Greencastle to see more than just the obvious(because that is all that will be in mainstream media)if your take away is the FBI doesn't care about Putnam Co that point was clearly missed by you, hometownboy.

    -- Posted by beheard04 on Fri, Mar 14, 2014, at 9:48 AM
  • ladycubs...

    He can't make the final decision, but I guarantee you he can call a meeting anytime and do something about what is going on...he's supposed to be running the department!

    -- Posted by marmee58 on Fri, Mar 14, 2014, at 9:54 AM

    -- Posted by peoplenotpolitics on Fri, Mar 14, 2014, at 10:06 AM
  • It's not rocket science. The department dropped the ball on the whole situation. The sheriff is playing the "it's not my fault card"(as elected officials do)As written in the article, deputies are also a witness. Which means they were questioned, Being the sheriff and BOSS of the dept. One would hope that he hears things. Hey sheriff i was questioned by the f.b.i today! Really? what about? It's starting to become a 5th grade drama and a very comical story! stay tuned. Kinda sounds like looney tunes!!

    -- Posted by lj7656 on Fri, Mar 14, 2014, at 10:34 AM
  • Election is coming

    -- Posted by 1armyvet on Fri, Mar 14, 2014, at 1:39 PM
  • Society grants members of law enforcement enormous power over citizens to enable the police to keep the peace and to preserve social order. They are granted a great deal of freedom to use their judgment regarding which laws to enforce, when and against whom. This wide range of options and authority can lead to the abuse of their power. Some police officers come to see themselves not as simply enforcers of the law, but as the law itself.

    Hopefully the FBI will dig deeper and find that this behavior has gone on elsewhere in the county (cloverdale). What is it with Banner deleting my comments anyway. Everytime I mention cloverdale police, my comments get deleted hmmmmm....

    -- Posted by captain crunch on Fri, Mar 14, 2014, at 3:19 PM
  • I am with Captain Crunch ~ all my posts are getting deleted also. If you check the Banner's articles one can see who was with Smith the night he did his excessive force stunts. Those officer's should also be held accountable. How many law suits are pending against members of the Putnam County Sheriff's Dept, Cloverdale Police, etc. They want to keep this quite. They scream with EXCESSIVE FORCE/violating individuals civil rights

    -- Posted by Agent 007 on Fri, Mar 14, 2014, at 4:19 PM
  • Before my post gets deleted ~ read the Banner article dtd April 24, 2007 ~ Bradley E. Karn ~family files law suit for EXCESSIVE FORCE. Family did win this.

    -- Posted by Agent 007 on Fri, Mar 14, 2014, at 4:41 PM
  • I do believe the law requires that a person that has even an "A misdemeanor" Ca not carry a fire arm. It is public record that he was charged with a D-felony and plead it out to a misdemeanor. I guess the funny part is that from what i can tell, The now prosecutor was his attorney. There should not be a lets pay him til trial. He should not be a cop by state law. I guess we make up our own laws here huh. For those interested the public record case number is 67D01-9806-DF-00116

    -- Posted by Oh My Goodness on Sat, Mar 15, 2014, at 8:15 AM