News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

March 13, 2014

Police records provide details into arrests in case

TERRE HAUTE — Police records provide more details of four arrests that are at the center of federal civil rights abuse allegations against a Putnam County sheriff’s deputy.

The records, obtained from the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department by the Tribune-Star on Wednesday, include probable cause documents and other “incident reports” associated with the four unrelated arrests that took place between November 2011 and December 2013.

Each case involves Deputy Terry Joe “T.J.” Smith, who is facing federal allegations of deprivation of civil rights. He is accused of using excessive force in four specific instances.

If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison per offense. He also could be fined up to $250,000 on each count.

• In the first case, according to a probable cause affidavit written by Smith, the deputy acknowledges using a stun gun to subdue a person identified as Anthony J. Dodson, who was attempting to flee from him on foot. This came, according to the affidavit, after Dodson had been stopped for disregarding a stop sign in Greencastle about 2:15 a.m. on Nov. 6, 2011. Dodson smelled of alcohol and failed at least two initial sobriety tests, the document states. A blood test showed Dodson registered a 0.15 blood alcohol level. Dodson was preliminarily charged with driving with a suspended license, resisting law enforcement and disorderly conduct. He was later convicted of driving while intoxicated and resisting arrest, both class-A misdemeanors, in a plea agreement filed Dec. 19, 2012, that dismissed other misdemeanor charges of driving while intoxicated and driving while suspended.  

Dodson was sentenced to serve one year in jail, with all time suspended except for time already served in jail. He also was ordered to complete 80 hours of community service. He had other criminal cases in Putnam County that were deferred once he successfully completed court-ordered programs.

• The second case took place on Stardust Road near Cloverdale about 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 4, 2012. In that incident, according to an arrest report written by another Putnam County deputy who was also at the scene, a wanted suspect identified as Cletis A. Warren of Cloverdale was spotted in a pickup truck. The report states deputies attempted to stop the truck, which was used to ram two police vehicles, including one driven by Smith. Once stopped, Warren reportedly jumped from the cab into the bed of the truck where officers attempted to restrain him. The document states he resisted arrest, kicked and refused to show his hands. “At some point during the struggle Warren sustained minor facial injuries” and was transported to Putnam County Hospital, where he was treated and released, the document states.

Warren later pleaded guilty to two class-D felony charges — battery resulting in bodily injury and resisting law enforcement. Four additional counts against Warren were dismissed through a plea agreement. He also was ordered to pay $1,000 restitution to cover medical and hospital costs, lost earnings and equipment for a deputy injured in the incident. He was sentenced to three years in the Indiana Department of Corrections. His prison release date is June 2015.

• The third incident took place about 2:50 a.m. on June 26, 2013. In that case, according to a probable cause affidavit written by Smith, a woman was reportedly hiding in the woods from her boyfriend later identified as Jeffrey L. Land of rural Greencastle. When found by Smith, the woman, according to the affidavit, said she had been battered by her boyfriend who had threatened to harm her family. She showed signs of physical abuse, the affidavit states.

Once located, Land was informed he was under arrest for domestic battery and was then handcuffed. A large knife was taken from the suspect, who then approached Smith as the deputy was placing the knife in his police vehicle. “While bent over, I caught a glimpse of Land coming up behind me to which (sic) I quickly turn (sic) around and placed [him] on the ground.” Land had also tried to jerk away from Smith during the arrest, the report stated, and was yelling profanities at the neighbors. The suspect was charged with domestic battery and intimidation.

Land later had his misdemeanor case resolved through a pretrial diversion agreement filed Oct. 21, 2013. He completed a “Moving Beyond Abuse” class and provided 24 hours of community service.

• The fourth case took place at a truck stop restaurant in Cloverdale on Dec. 28, 2013. According to a probable cause affidavit written by another Putnam County deputy present at the scene, a woman identified as Amber Stwalley of Morgan County entered the truck stop and began to threaten another woman with physical harm. When police intervened, the woman threatened to kick them and was yelling profanities at the other woman and police, the affidavit states.

In an attached “report of physical force,” Smith stated the woman was striking the other deputy and was subdued finally when Smith tripped her to the ground and used his body to hold her in place. She continued to curse and threaten to kick the officers, according to the report, and was then taken outside, where she was placed face down on the ground and held in place by Smith, who placed his left knee on her lower back and his left hand on the middle of her upper back. The other deputy held her legs to prevent her from kicking, according to the report. A knife was later found in her possession. Stwalley was charged with public intoxication and disorderly conduct, both class-B misdemeanors.

A hearing in the case is set for later this month in Putnam Superior Court.

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