GREENFIELD — A sheriff’s deputy faces criminal charges amid allegations he sent his ex-girlfriend thousands of harassing text messages and threatened to kill her if she didn’t take him back.
Jake K. Smith, 27, has been on paid suspension since Feb. 2 pending the outcome of an internal investigation at the department. He now faces two misdemeanors and one felony charge, as well as termination from the job he’s had for three years.
The Hancock County prosecutor’s office filed two misdemeanor counts of harassment and intimidation Friday in Hancock Superior Court 1.
A third count, official misconduct as a Class D felony, was included because Smith was on duty during at least two of the harassing calls, court documents state.
If Smith is convicted of a felony charge, he will not be allowed by state law to carry a handgun.
Smith, a third-shift officer who is also a K9 handler, faces termination from the department at a hearing this month before the sheriff’s merit board.
Greenfield police were called to Smith’s ex-girlfriend’s home on Feb. 2 after she reported that Smith had followed her from work to a local restaurant, then began sending threatening messages because she had a male co-worker in the car with her.
While officers were still at the woman’s home, Smith called again, and his ex-girlfriend put the call on speaker phone so officers could listen in, according to a probable cause affidavit.
Police recorded that call and one that followed it after the woman hung up on Smith, according to court documents.
The woman told officers that she recently went to a college class and left her cellphone at home. When she returned, she said, she had 48 missed calls and texts from Smith.
Over a seven-week period, investigators traced 3,208 text messages and 164 phone calls from Smith to his ex-girlfriend, court records state.
The messages and calls alternated between Smith being verbally abusive and begging his ex-girlfriend to take him back, according to court documents. They broke up in December.
In one text, Smith sent her a picture, reportedly of $5,000 cash, and told her he would take her shopping, court records state.
In a phone call, Smith said he was going to “come to her apartment and take care of her and then drive himself to jail,” which officers took as a direct threat on the woman’s life, Hancock County Prosecutor Michael Griffin said.
Based on his office’s close ties to the local law enforcement community, Griffin asked the court to appoint a special prosecutor to handle the case after filing the initial charges Friday morning.
Griffin said he expects the Marion County prosecutor’s office to take the case.
Special prosecutors may choose to dismiss all charges, pursue them as originally filed or add additional counts, Deputy Chief Prosecutor Tami Napier said.
“They have all the discretion,” she said. “We just needed to get something on file.”
Authorities’ main concern was for the alleged victim’s safety, Griffin added.
“Normally, we would not make a charge and then ask for a special prosecutor, but we can’t sit by while there are allegations like this,” he said.
Smith has been a member of the department since 2005, when he joined as a reserve officer. He was hired full time in May 2009.
This is not the officer’s first disciplinary action, Sheriff Mike Shepherd said Friday.
Smith has been suspended twice before, once for five days in September 2010 and once for two days in June of last year.
Both incidents involved Smith’s contact with his on-again, off-again girlfriend, Shepherd said.
“He was given a direct order by a superior to leave her alone, not have contact with her (while on duty), and he basically disobeyed a direct order,” Shepherd said of Smith’s most recent sanction. “It’s obviously just escalating. I just don’t feel that we can afford to keep him on here at this point.”
The public could have been put at risk if Smith had a confrontation with his ex-girlfriend while on duty, Shepherd added.
“We all make calls on duty, but this is obviously the nature of the call – the threats, the harassment,” he said. “Part of our concern is his mindset, talking to her, then taking … (an emergency) call.”
Smith will go before the merit board March 16, at which point he and his superiors may call witnesses to testify about the allegations against him.
Smith declined to comment for this story.