Deputy Smith guilty on two counts of police brutality

Saturday, September 13, 2014

TERRE HAUTE -- A former Putnam County Sheriff's Department Deputy of the Year was convicted Friday on two counts of using excessive force -- aka police brutality -- as a five-day federal court trial came to an end in U.S. District Court at Terre Haute.

Terry Joe (T.J.) Smith, 37, Greencastle, a four-year veteran of the Sheriff's Department who was named Deputy of the Year in 2011, his first year with the department, was convicted by an exhausted-looking jury that needed two days, two sets of deliberation and a change in jurors to forge its verdict.

He was convicted of a Sept. 7, 2012 incident on West Stardust Road in Cloverdale punctuated by a punch to the face of Cletus Warren and a June 26, 2013 incident at Lazy Acres trailer park in which Jeffrey Land was thrown to the ground by Smith as the deputy was putting him in the back of a squad car.

T.J. Smith

Meanwhile, the jury reached not-guilty verdicts in the other two alleged excessive force cases against Smith -- a Nov. 6, 2011 incident outside Moore's Bar in Greencastle in which Smith was alleged to have indiscriminately used a taser on an intoxicated Anthony Dodson, and a Dec. 28, 2013 incident at the Cloverdale Truck Stop in which Smith allegedly forced an intoxicated Amber Stwalley to the ground, face first into lava rocks.

Smith is being allowed to remain free of federal custody, awaiting his sentencing.

Judge William T. Lawrence told Smith he may remain out on "previously imposed conditions," which have included the absence of any firearms on his person and in the Smith home.

Post-trial motions in the case are due within 14 days, the judge said, with sentencing dependent on the issuing of a presentence investigation, which normally takes 70 days, federal prosecutor Bradley Blackington said. Typically, he added, sentencing will come 70-90 days following a conviction in a federal case.

Although initial information via the U.S. District Attorney's Office indicated Smith could get up to 10 years for each count, Blackington told the Banner Graphic he expects Smith to get a 24- to 30-month sentence for each conviction. The sentences would likely run concurrently, the prosecutor said in a press conference on the sidewalk of the federal courthouse following the jury's decision.

"I'm sure Mr. Smith will appeal," defense attorney John L. Tompkins of Indianapolis said in the courtroom following the verdict, "but I have not spoken to Mr. Smith about it."

Fully expecting an appeal, federal prosecutor Blackington said, "we'll deal with that when it comes."

Until then, Tompkins continued, he and Smith will "work hard toward sentencing, hoping to minimize the impact on Terry and his family."

Asked if Smith would be making a comment on the outcome, Tompkins said he had advised against it.

"I've talked to the family," the defense attorney added, "and advised them against it. It's an extremely emotional time for them and not a good time to make a comment."

About a dozen members of Smith's family were in the courtroom when the verdict was read, beginning with a not-guilty decision in the Moore's Bar case but followed in order by a guilty verdict in the Cletus Warren incident that brought a noticeable gasp from the defendants' gallery.

Meanwhile, federal prosecutors said they weren't surprised at the outcome.

"You have to put it in perspective of the jury," Blackington said, noting that with four cases before them, the jurors had "difficult, really difficult decisions" to make.

The jurors asked some really good questions, the prosecutor noted, such as "what are the legal standards for using a taser and for punching someone in the face."

"There aren't clear answers" to questions like that, he added, explaining that deliberations "required jurors to step into the shoes of a reasonable police officer in applying such standards. Those jurors had a real challenge, Blackington stressed.

"Twelve people trying to look at the evidence can really present a lot of different viewpoints," he said.

Smith, who with a felony now on his record will lose both his position as law enforcement officer and his seat on the Greencastle City Council, has been on administrative leave since his March arrest by FBI agents.

Pending a reversal on appeal, Smith will never again wear a badge or carry a gun.

The felony conviction, Blackington said, in effect ends Smith's law enforcement career, "and his seat on the Greencastle Common Council."

"Once he gets convicted that's it, he's a convicted felon right now."

Up until missing a meeting last Tuesday night, the second day of his trial, Smith had continued to attend Greencastle City Council sessions. Elected as a Republican, he had been serving as Fourth Ward councilman on the five-member city governing body.

The split verdict in the four counts came just before 3 p.m. Friday, two hours after a juror was dismissed and replaced by an alternate following 13 prior hours of deliberation over Thursday afternoon and evening and Friday morning.

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  • Although I do pity the family of Mr Smith and even more for the devastated families of his brutalized victims I believe that Mr Smith deserves no more mercy than he showed his victims, some of whom were robbed of justice by this jury. I certainly hope his defense isn't being compensated by the tax paying citizens of Putnam County, who deserve honest by-the-book policing for a change.

    -- Posted by former_pc_res on Sat, Sep 13, 2014, at 5:04 AM
  • The Sheriff has denied the public access to public records EVEN when being reminded of Public Access Laws. He refuses to do a formal written complaint about one of his officers due to personal feelings. His department Administration is HIGHLY unprofessional and when told that in Corporate America its unacceptable I personally was told that they are not corporate America therefore justifying their inability to maintain and follow the laws . The entire Department needs an overhaul.

    -- Posted by sassychikz on Sat, Sep 13, 2014, at 6:33 AM
  • Hoping to minimize the impact on Terry and his family.....interesting. His family has my sympathy, he does not. He was entrusted to serve and protect not serve to brutalize and batter.

    -- Posted by kbmom on Sat, Sep 13, 2014, at 7:38 AM
  • Seems to me that the jury issue will be the cause of an appeal. This all seems like it was pre-arranged so that the jury would have this issue. Which ultimately lead to it being overturned and effectively letting him off with nothing. Not a minute in jail nor any victim justice. This is sad but true when it comes to police officers and will forever prove they are above the law. With that said what about the officers that where proven to have lied to a grand jury. Isn't that a crime. What about all the cases they have worked. Shouldn't those be investigated as well.

    -- Posted by Oh My Goodness on Sat, Sep 13, 2014, at 8:33 AM
  • It is hard to convict a cop, no matter what they do, no matter how brutal. Unless something is done to rein in the increasingly aggressive police, we will move ever onward toward a police state, if we aren't there already. People are already becoming more reluctant to call the police because of fear of what they will do. You don't want to call and ask for an ambulance for someone needing help ~ you will get their out-of-control officer's with guns in hand.

    -- Posted by Agent 007 on Sat, Sep 13, 2014, at 11:08 AM
  • There are a lot of public officials,hired and elected that use their power over the ones that hired or elected them.Most let this little power go to their head and deserve to be in jail.

    -- Posted by jcromwell1 on Sat, Sep 13, 2014, at 11:51 AM
  • There are police officers ambushed and killed more and more often. Who can blame them for being "aggressive"? That being said, what this deputy did was inexcusable and he is paying for it. I still maintain that the majority of police officers are good outstanding public servants doing a difficult job and doing it well. I find it very disheartening that there are people out there who think they are all bad, because I know they are not. I work with many of them often and I know they are good people.

    -- Posted by VolunteerFF on Sat, Sep 13, 2014, at 1:24 PM
  • I 100 percent stand behind TJ Smith! It's a pure shame the paper has only published the names and testimonies of those agenst TJ but nothing about the ones who testified that he did no wrong. The ones who testified about no wrong doings other then Tony Keith were not cops of any sort but where there to whiteness the said incidents. Unfortunately this is how the news works. You files commenting about TJ shouldn't be worried about him, you fokes should worry about the sheriffs department serving Putnam County! You should worry about those who stated they were willing to write false statements because someone other then TJ asked them to, you should be worried because this is all he said she said, fingers pointing here there and every where and not one persons story matches another! I am sorry I would like to know that the men and woman who were employed to protect me were honest people and would do the right thing no matter who asked them to do other wise. These criminals who chose the path they did are not victims and the officers who choose to sweep all this supposed stuff under the rug because someone asked them to are now criminals them selves! Why are those who admitted to giving false statements not being held to the fire or the ones who said they seen a video of such behavior and not reporting this not being held to the fire? Did this video even exist? Hmm... I have read about what 3 different cops had said about the sound of TJ punching this guy in the face sounded like. One said it sounded like fleash hitting flesh and two others said it sounded like a tomato smacking a wall. I am not sure what a tomato sounds like hitting a wall as I do not throw tomatoes but for two officers to explain it sounding like that sounds like they were discussing what they would say on that stand. But I guess we should take the words only of those who have admitted to writing false statements, those who have lied and those who are pointing the finger in every direction but at them own selves. I bet that department is feeling rather uncomfortable around each other as they should!

    -- Posted by amusedbystupidity on Sun, Sep 14, 2014, at 10:39 AM
  • Those of us who know TJ personally know what kind of person he is. Everyone will decide on their own whether they believe one way or another, but some of us know more than others do. That's all I have to say.

    -- Posted by Clovertucky on Sun, Sep 14, 2014, at 5:49 PM
  • For those of you that keep saying the alleged victimes were "brutlaized", please do your research on each of these cases. As I have said before, please do not rely on this paper for the truth, it prints only one side of the story. There is so much more to this trial than what was printed.

    -- Posted by beheard04 on Mon, Sep 15, 2014, at 1:33 PM
  • Tony Keith, Credibility ?

    -- Posted by Major Glory 1904 on Tue, Sep 16, 2014, at 5:44 AM
  • Major Glory 1904 your ignorance surly shows. My post states The ones who testified about no wrong doings other then Tony Keith were not cops of any sort but where there to whiteness the said incidents. Credibility? Absolutly his story matched the true Victim at the Tuck Stop and all the whitnesses that were present! There is no need for personal attacks... I my self have alot of respect for Mr. Keith and believe him to be a very upstanding person.

    -- Posted by amusedbystupidity on Tue, Sep 16, 2014, at 7:27 AM
  • The dirty little secret is that this experience could have been avoided many years ago had many in the Putnam County Courthouse and the Banner Graphic done their jobs in advancing truth long ago. Now, the people of Putnam County will enjoy civil lawsuits with a lesser burden of proof involved.

    The question is whether the U.S. Attorney's Office stops with TJ Smith, or will it target two judges and a prosecutor. Will TJ Smith and others reveal Putnam County's documented judicial history during civil trial remains another question yet to resolve.

    There are some in the Putnam County Courthouse who should be getting very nervous while seeing their dynasty collapsing around them with fears of the documented truth being revealed within a courtroom while not being able to have any control over the documented truth.

    -- Posted by on Tue, Sep 16, 2014, at 8:19 AM
  • I believe that it was at least one of the local judges who requested that the Department of Justice get involved in this case in the first place. The officers who were found to have lied to the Grand Jury and yet told the truth in the trial probably did so to avoid perjury charges. Facts that weren't allowed in Mr Smith's trial included his dismissal from two previous guard jobs for using excessive force and criminal charges of beating a 3 year-old. For those who aren't self-amusing and still reside in Putnam County please be sure to register and vote in November and do some house cleaning. Sheriff Fenwick must go! Your fellow citizens and your property values will thank you.

    -- Posted by former_pc_res on Tue, Sep 16, 2014, at 10:54 AM
  • I am not amused by stupidity. I was only able to get through the first few sentences of your post before my red pen gave out. Ugh.

    Innocent until proven guilty .. and it appears the proof was evident.

    Get ready for a house cleanin' .. more to follow. I can't wait!

    -- Posted by Emmes on Tue, Sep 16, 2014, at 11:28 AM
  • It is absolutely amusing to see so many people speak about something in which they know nothing about. It's as if a membership through the Banner Graphic comes with some type of law degree. A vast majority of you know nothing of the world in which you live. Your opinions are uninformed and for the most part biased. Afraid to call the police...come on, that's just ignorant.

    -- Posted by HeHateMe on Wed, Sep 17, 2014, at 8:08 AM
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