Putnam County deputy accused of using excessive force faces federal charges

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INDIANAPOLIS (March 10, 2014) – A Putnam Co. deputy is facing felony charges relating to the mistreatment of people who were under arrest.

Terry Joe “T.J.” Smith is a big man in a small town.

Smith, 37, is one of only 17 Putnam County sheriff’s deputies and is also a member of the Greencastle Common Council.

FBI agents arrested Smith Monday morning following his indictment on four counts of depriving people under arrest of their civil rights by beating and mistreating them while they were under arrest.

“There is a pattern here,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Brad Blackington. “There are other officers and, in some cases, civilians who are witnesses to the acts.”

“I would discourage people from thinking there is a pattern here,” said Defense Attorney John Tompkins.

It’s alleged on four different occasions, from November 2011 through Christmastime this past year, Smith abused people while they were being put under arrest in Putnam County or after they were in handcuffs.

The first incident allegedly happened at Moore’s Bar in downtown Greencastle.

“Those allegations which are expressively contained in the indictment allege Mr. Smith’s use of a Taser against an individual after that individual had already been restrained,” said U.S. Attorney Joseph Hogsett. “In another allegation, Mr. Smith punched an individual in the face after that person had been restrained.”

In late December 2013, Hogsett said Smith was present during the arrest of a woman at the Cloverdale truck stop on Highway 231 and I-70, “placing her face down in the lava rocks in below freezing temperatures with proper clothing and holding her down for an extended period of time.”

Smith is also accused of assaulting a man after he was restrained.

“One of the most egregious aspects of the allegations here are the repetitive nature of them,” said Hogsett.

Tompkins said arrested people have a motive for falsely accusing his client.

“It is our position that he never exceeded an appropriate amount of force in the course of his employment or otherwise,” said Tompkins. “Keep in context these are four arrests over the course of two years and this is a deputy who has won awards for multiple arrests, dozens and dozens of arrests each year, so saying that four out of a large group is any kind of pattern I think is inappropriate and inaccurate.”

Putnam County Prosecutor Tim Bookwalter told FOX59 News that he has never investigated Smith.

There was no comment from the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department.

Former Sheriff Mark Frisbie was convicted in U.S. District Court in 2008 of embezzling more than $11,000 from the department and was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in federal prison.

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