Indianapolis — A federal indictment unsealed Monday alleges a sheriff's deputy from a rural Indiana county engaged in repeated acts of violence against people being taken into custody, in one case shoving a woman's face down into rocks at a truck stop.
Putnam County Sheriff's Deputy Terry Joe Smith was arrested early Monday morning at his home in Greencastle, about 40 miles west of Indianapolis.
The four-count indictment cites four violent acts that it says deprived individuals of their civil rights, but U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett hinted there might be more to come. Officials would not say whether any of the alleged incidents were captured on police car video.
"Many times people regard a federal grand jury indictment as the end of an investigation, while in some cases they are the beginning," Hogsett said at a news conference in Indianapolis.
Smith, who is being held in the Vigo County Jail in Terre Haute, is also a member of the Greencastle City Council, but none of the charges stem from his duties as a councilman. The Putnam County Sheriff's Department issued a statement saying that Smith has been suspended without pay pending action by the Sheriff's Merit Board.
"He holds positions of public prominence in Greencastle and Putnam County," Hogsett said.
In one case, prosecutors say Smith allegedly dragged a woman out of a truck stop, covered her with his body and forced her face into rocks. She suffered scars and bruises but surgery was not required, officials said.
In other cases, prosecutors say Smith unnecessarily used a stun gun on a suspect, requiring a trip to the hospital; punched a suspect in the face despite that person being held by other officers; and threw a handcuffed suspect to the ground and drove his knee into that person's back.
Smith could face up to 10 years in prison on each of the four counts.
Officials said the arrest resulted from the work of a federal public corruption task force that's yielded 30 arrests in two years.