WASHINGTON–A former Hickman County deputy sheriff was sentenced Oct 7 by Chief U.S. District Judge Todd J. Campbell to 24 months in prison for civil rights and false statement charges.
On June 21, former Deputy Sheriff Kenneth H. Smith, 43, pleaded guilty in federal court to violating the civil rights of two women for photographing parts of their unclothed bodies under the false pretense that those photographs were necessary for an official investigation. Smith also pleaded guilty to making material false statements to federal investigators.
While working as a deputy sheriff, Smith was assigned to investigate two domestic violence complaints. During interviews, Smith told the victims that he needed to take photographs of their exposed bodies to document injuries, including intimate areas of their bodies where no injury had occurred. Smith, abusing his power and position, lied to the victims and claimed these photographs were necessary for the police investigation and prosecution, when in fact they were not for legitimate law enforcement purposes, but for his own purposes. The victims, trusting a law enforcement officer to protect them and believing it to be necessary, acquiesced to Smith’s authority.
Smith also lied to federal agents about sending text messages to a former female inmate in which he requested the former inmate send him nude pictures of herself in return for Smith’s help in dismissing or reducing the outstanding criminal charges against her. When Smith was confronted with photographs of the explicit text messages coming from his personal cell phone number, Smith continued to lie to the agents claiming that he had not sent them.
“Law enforcement officers are in a position of authority and power. When an officer abuses his power for his personal gratification as this officer did, it erodes public trust and confidence,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “ His conduct was completely intolerable and has no place in law enforcement.”
“The U.S. Attorney’s office will not stand for such abuse by a law enforcement officer who was sworn to protect the rights of all individuals, but chose instead to victimize them further by his criminal acts when they were in a vulnerable situation,” said U.S. Attorney Jerry E. Martin of the Middle District of Tennessee. “The public should not allow the crime of an individual like this to tarnish the reputation of great law enforcement officers who help to bring these cases to justice.”
The case was investigated by the FBI and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.