Putnam County deputy, council member indicted

(WISH Photo)

GREENCASTLE, Ind. (WISH) — A Putnam County Sheriff’s Deputy and Greencastle Common Council member has been indicted on four counts of federal civil rights violations.

Police say 37-year-old Terry Joe “T.J.” Smith used excessive force four times while he worked as a Putnam County sheriff’s deputy.

“This wasn’t one incident. There was a pattern of incidents. There were four incidents that we charged and I think that made this a much stronger case than we typically see,” said Deputy U.S. Attorney Brad Blackingham.

Smith is accused of using a stun gun on someone who was already restrained, throwing someone in handcuffs to the ground, kneeing a handcuffed person and holding a woman face down on rocks in freezing temperatures for a long time.

Prosecutors say while they do not have any video or audio recordings to back up the charges, they do have witnesses.

“There were other officers, and in some cases civilians, who were witnesses to the acts,” said Blackingham.

FBI agents arrested Smith at a Greencastle home early Monday morning. Later in the day, the Putnam County Sheriff issued this statement:

“The Putnam County Sheriff was informed this morning that Terry Smith, a Merit Deputy employed with the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department since July 2010, was taken into custody by Federal Law Enforcement authorities on Monday morning March 10, 2014.
 
The Putnam County Sheriff has had no communications with Federal Law Enforcement authorities during the course of their investigation and has had no communications as to what charges were filed against Deputy Smith on today’s date. The Sheriff has suspended Deputy Smith pending further action by the Putnam County Sheriff’s Merit Board.”

Smith’s position as a Greencastle City Council member remains unclear.

“We are looking into that now. I know there are state statues when someone is convicted of a felony but we are far from that at this point,” said City Attorney Laurie Hardwick.

News of the arrest spread quickly in the close knit community. Many people said they had heard rumors of a Federal investigation involving a sheriff’s deputy.

“No names, just somebody that acted inappropriate and something was happening and an investigation is all I heard. That’s about the end of it,” said resident Brian Smith.

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