Putnam County Sheriff's deputy arrested for excessive force - 13 WTHR Indianapolis

Putnam County Sheriff's deputy arrested for using excessive force

T.J. Smith T.J. Smith

A Putnam County sheriff's deputy faces 40 years in federal prison for using excessive force against four suspects.

The charges against T.J. Smith were announced Monday morning at a news conference. Smith has been arrested.

The 37-year-old worked as a deputy with the department, led the county with 33 DUI arrests in his first eight months on the job and was named deputy of the year in 2011. He also serves as a member of the Greencastle Common Council.

The alleged 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 is accused of 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."

"If you're already restrained, then you're not going anywhere....The police shouldn't do that," said Greencastle resident Mike Hollingsworth.

Other residents who refused to speak on camera said they weren't surprised, that Smith was known as a hothead who had a reputation for aggressive tactics.

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.

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.

Six years later, Smith could be sentenced to up to 40 years in federal prison, an additional three years of federal supervision and significant fines, according to Assistant United States Attorneys Bradley A. Blackington and MaryAnn T. Mindrum.

Anyone with information relating to alleged criminal activity is asked to contact the U.S. Attorney's Office public corruption hotline at (317) 229-2443.

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