HANCOCK COUNTY – The head of the Hancock County Community Corrections program has officially resigned. The move comes just days after a field officer named in a racial discrimination lawsuit involving the department was arrested and charged with DUI. The field officer, Thomas R. Smith III has since been fired.
The Community Corrections program has come under scrutiny following the filing of the lawsuit, May 19 against Kennedy’s now former department. The federal lawsuit is against the Hancock County Board of Commissioners and three Hancock County Community Corrections officers — Daniel Devoy, field officer; Thomas Smith, field officer (who has since been fired); and Nicole Raffaelli, detention coordinator.
The lawsuit states Ja’Michael Bryant, 21, Indianapolis, a former inmate with the Hancock County Community Corrections program, was subjected to an unlawful and unreasonable discrimination based on his race. He also suffered embarrassment, humiliation, loss of income, and other damages, the suit states.
Kennedy sent county officials a letter earlier this week announcing his departure from Community Corrections. He had an exit interview today (Thursday, June 1), county officials said. Officials with the county planned to hold a meeting late Thursday to discuss how the Community Corrections program moves forward following the latest incident with Smith getting fired for DUI and Kennedy stepping down.
Smith was fired from his position with Community Corrections after officials learned he was arrested, May 25 in Henry County. He’s been charged with a Class A Misdemeanor count of operating a vehicle while intoxicated as well as public intoxication, a Class B Misdemeanor. He’s also been charged with a Class C driving infraction.
Hancock County Comissioner President Bill Spalding told the Daily Reporter Kennedy sent out a letter to county officials announcing his departure earlier this week, but would not go into detail about the letter.
“I can’t say anything further at this time because of the pending litigation,” Spalding said.
Spalding is referring to the lawsuit filed against the three Community Corrections officers and the County Commissioners surrounding Bryant.
According to court documents, Bryant, who is black, was convicted of dealing marijuana and sentenced to a year-and-a-half term through the Community Corrections Home Detention Program in November of 2022.
According to the lawsuit, in April, one of the field officers called Bryant, who did not answer the phone. However, the phone did not disconnect and recorded a conversation about Bryant by the three Community Corrections officers, who court records and the recording indicates degraded Bryant based on his race.
As for Smith, he was pulled over around 9:40 p.m. Thursday, May 25 in the 18 block of Washington Street after officers with the Knightstown Police Department noticed he was driving without his lights on, a probable cause affidavit states. Smith had a bac of .175 officials stated in the report. Anyone is considered legally drunk when their blood alcohol level is .08 or more.
Smith told officials at the time of his arrest, the car he was driving was a lease for the Hancock County Community Corrections Department, the probable cause states. Officials noted Kennedy was called to confirm Smith’s employment with Hancock County and collect the vehicle Smith was driving.
Smith had his initial appearance in Henry County Circuit Court 3, Friday, May 26, court records state. A $5,000 surety bond was set.
Kennedy, who was first employed by the county as a jail officer in 2010, was a case manager for community corrections before being promoted to the head of the department in 2020.
The Daily Reporter will have more on this story in Saturday’s edition.