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Hancock Co Community Corrections head steps down after officer at center of voicemail controversy is arrested

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Posted at 1:21 PM, Jun 05, 2023

WARNING: The story below contains language that may be offensive to some readers.

HANCOCK COUNTY — The Hancock County Community Corrections Executive Director has resigned following the drunk driving arrest of an officer at the center of a profanity-laced voicemail controversy— a story WRTV Investigates broke last month.

Knightstown Police arrested Tom Smith, 52, the night of May 25 after police saw Smith’s county-leased SUV without any headlights or tail lights.

At the time, Smith was a Community Corrections officer in Hancock County, but he was terminated following the arrest, according to an attorney representing Hancock County Commissioners.

According to court records, Smith’s speech was slurred, his eyes were glassy and he told officers “We’ve been at the Legion playing darts.”

A portable breath test showed a .175 BAC, which is above the legal limit of .08.

Officers confirmed Smith was an employee of Hancock County Community Corrections, and his supervisor, Executive Director Wade Kennedy arrived at the scene.

Kennedy arrived as Smith was completing his field sobriety tests and took possession of the county-leased SUV Smith was driving, court records show.

Kennedy resigned following the arrest, on May 30.

“A search committee has been formed to replace Mr. Kennedy,” said Scott Benkie, an attorney representing the Hancock County Commissioners, in an email to WRTV.

Smith was terminated on May 26, said Benkie.

Smith's defense attorney declined to comment to WRTV about the arrest.

Smith is scheduled for trial on September 5.

He is charged with OWI Endangering a Person, Public Intoxication and No Headlights.

Tom Smith and Wade Kennedy both kept their jobs after Smith and two other corrections officers were caught on tape, talking about a Cumberland man under their supervision, in a profanity-laced voicemail.

Ja’Michael Bryant, a Cumberland man who received the voicemail from Hancock County Community Corrections while serving a home detention sentence for dealing marijuana, has filed a federal lawsuit against Hancock County Commissioners.

Three Community Corrections employees at the time— Daniel Devoy, Thomas Smith, and Nicole Raffaelli—can be heard talking about Ja’Michael Bryant and his home.

THE FOLLOWING ARE TRANSCRIPTION EXCERPTS FROM THE RECORDING

Little thuggy.
Little motherf**ker.
Little thuggy
Yeah, so he pissed me off.
So, I want to go get in his ass.
Is he, he…Wonder why he's not at work.
I said I don't know.
Where does he work at even?
He works for his mother.
And…Oh, he's a janitor or something isn't he
.Actually, he picks up stuff for a house that has a bunch of people…Because his mother runs a daycare for adults that are unable to take care of themselves. So, she hires him.
He goes picks up…
He's her b**ch.
He'll go to Taco Bell. Pick up all the Taco Bell. Because every day they want to get something different to eat.He probably lays in bed until mom calls him and says hey…
Yep. Time to go to work.
I need you to go to Walgreens and pick up diapers for this guy that’s here.
He doesn't go to work (Inaudible) leave around…I want to say 10 o'clock.
He's got it made then.
Yeah, f**k this guy.
F**k this guy.
That f**king pisses me off.
F**k this guy.You want to run over there and see this b**ch real quick?
Um hm.
It's not that far.

You can hear the full voicemail in the video player below.

WARNING: The audio below contains explicit language which may be offensive to some viewers.

Bryant’s attorney Terrance Kinnard says the U.S. Department of Justice should investigate whether the employees mistreated other defendants in Hancock County.

"The most significant issue is the question of - how deep does the well go?” said Kinnard. “How many individuals were adversely affected simply because of their race or gender at the hands of individuals like this. And how much of this attitude has the organization adopted and for how long?"

In November 2022, Bryant was convicted of dealing marijuana and sentenced to a year and a half on Hancock County Community Corrections Home Detention.

Community Corrections is an alternative to prison and jail where offenders can serve out their sentence on work release or home detention.

Kinnard filed a federal lawsuit on May 19 against the Hancock County Board of Commissioners, as well as the three employees heard on the recording-- Daniel Devoy, Thomas Smith, and Nicole Raffaelli.

Kinnard emphasized Community Corrections officers have the power to find someone is in violation of their sentence and recommend to the judge they go to jail or prison.

"These are men and women who have supervision and control over a person's life and freedom,” said Kinnard.

The lawsuit alleges Community Corrections wrongly accused Bryant of tampering with his ankle monitor and says Devoy prevented Bryant from working for several days, which resulted in Bryant getting behind on his corrections fees.

“Community Corrections filed a violation against Mr. Bryant after he was unable to keep up with the payments due to the income loss caused by Mr. Devoy,” read the lawsuit.

The federal lawsuit alleges Bryant experienced a “relentless campaign of harassment” even before the voicemail.

The lawsuit also accuses Hancock County of violating Bryant’s civil rights and allowing a “deep-rooted culture of racism.”

“We filed the lawsuit because there was an egregious wrong that was done here,” said Kinnard. “Not only are they supervising him, they have control over his life and they actually made other decisions that weren't recorded that we can look back on and interpret what their intent was."

The three employees heard on the voicemail, Devoy, Smith and Raffaelli, received a written reprimand.

Smith and Raffaelli still work for Hancock County Community Corrections.

WRTV Investigates has learned they could receive $1,700 raises in 2024.

“It's almost as if they're getting rewarded for this kind of behavior,” said Kinnard.

The Hancock County Council approved county-wide raises of up to $1,700 per person.

It’s up to department heads to decide which employees receive raises, and if so, how much.

Nicole Raffaelli could receive a raise.

As for Daniel Devoy, he retired from Community Corrections on May 1 and is now working for the jail part-time, which makes him ineligible for a raise.

Kinnard says all employees involved should be fired.

“They kept their jobs,” said Kinnard. “They kept their pay. They were left in charge of other individuals."

The Hancock County Commissioners investigated but took no action.

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Kinnard said the Hancock County Commissioners need to do a broader investigation into the officers’ conduct.

WRTV contacted the United States Department of Justice, and we are still waiting for a response.

We also contacted the FBI, and a spokesperson told us, “Per policy, the FBI does not confirm or deny the existence or nonexistence of federal investigations."

As for the federal lawsuit, an attorney for the Hancock County Commissioners said they do not comment on pending litigation.

“However, I can say that the County Commissioners are not through reviewing this matter given the allegations of the lawsuit, and some of the reported information,” said attorney Scott Benkie in an email to WRTV.