Putnam County Sheriff's deputy sentenced for using excessive force

T.J. Smith
A former Putnam County Sheriff's deputy was sentenced to 14 months in prison in an excessive force case.

Terry Joe Smith, 38, of Greencastle, was found guilty after a jury trial in September on two counts of deprivation of civil rights under color of law. He faced up to 40 years.

The incidents took place 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. 

Smith was tried for using a stun gun on a suspect who had already been restrained; punching another suspect in the face after that person was under restraint; throwing someone on the ground after that person had been handcuffed, driving his knee into the person's back while that person lay on the ground in handcuffs, and throwing a woman to the floor and forcing her outside in freezing weather without proper clothing and holding her down "for an extended period of time."

"The public has a right to expect better from their law enforcement officers," said acting United States Attorney Josh J. 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."

The FBI helped in the case, which prosecutors called an abuse of power.

"'Color of Law' violations like those alleged in this indictment are especially egregious in that they erode those high public expectations that all citizens should enjoy with those officials, sheriff's deputies, police officers and others who have sworn to protect and serve the very communities and counties in which they live," said Robert Jones, FBI Special Agent in Charge.

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.

Smith will serve two years of supervised release after his sentence.

Putnam County history

This isn't the first time law enforcement in Putnam County has been accused of breaking the law. In 2008, then-sheriff Mark Frisbie was arrested by the FBI on charges of stealing funds from a federal program. He served two months in prison, another four months on home detention.