TERRE HAUTE — A male Jail Officer with the Vigo County Sheriff’s Department faces allegations of sexual misconduct with a detainee, official misconduct and trafficking with an inmate following an investigation of a March incident.
Shelby Smith, 25, has been terminated as a jail officer, Sheriff Greg Ewing said on Tuesday.
An investigation into the allegations began Saturday when a female inmate told another jail officer about an incident she allegedly witnessed on March 16 involving Smith and two other female inmates. The witness was in fear of her own safety, Ewing said, so she delayed reporting the incident.
“When we became aware of it on Saturday, we completed the investigation in 48 hours, and the arrest was made on Monday,” Ewing said. “Nobody in this office is above the law.”
The investigation included a review of video for the cellblock where the alleged sex acts occurred. Smith can be seen entering the cellblock and can also be seen at various times checking to see if anyone is approaching. The sheriff said he was also disturbed to see that Smith did not secure the doors to the cellblock when he entered, which could have led to inmates in that area being able to access another second-floor area of the jail.
The alleged incident occurred at about 11:30 a.m. and lasted about two minutes, the sheriff said.
The investigation showed that Smith provided chewing tobacco to the inmates in exchange for the sexual encounter. The inmates dried the tobacco, rolled it in paper and somehow ignited the homemade cigarette so they could smoke it.
Smith was first employed as a jail officer in August 2006. He left in September 2007 to serve in the military, and returned as a jail employee in December 2007, according to jail employment records. He then left for a military tour in November 2008, and returned to work at the jail in January 2010.
Ewing said Smith had no disciplinary issues while he was employed at the jail.
“Clearly, this came out of left field,” Ewing said of his surprise at the incident, which appears to be a one-time occurrence.
“I lost a lot of sleep over this, because the public trusts us,” Ewing said. “I was really upset because I wear this uniform with pride and honor, and to have someone do that to this office, they will be dealt with to the full extent of the law.”
A warrant for Smith’s arrest was issued Monday, and bail was set at $10,000 with 10 percent allowed. Ewing said he had arranged to have Smith housed at the Clay County Jail pending future court dates, but a $1,000 cash bail was posted for his release on Monday.
Smith is scheduled to return to court on Thursday for filing of formal charges.