A jury has acquitted a fired Pinellas County sheriff's deputy who faced grand theft charges.
Steven Smith was accused of stealing hundreds of painkillers from the sheriff's office while he worked.
Prosecutors argued a woman dropped off hundreds of prescription pills after her sister died of cancer, and that Smith swiped some while working the front desk. They said Smith put them in his lunch bag and took them out to his cruiser.
In the middle of a nasty breakup, Smith's girlfriend, Jessica Jimenez, claimed she found around 300 stolen Hydrocodone pills, with the dead woman's name on it, hidden in Smith's dresser. She snapped a picture and sent it to the sheriff’s office.
“It was a stone cold, if you ever cheat on me I'm going to ruin your life,” says Steven Smith.
On the stand, Smith insisted his scorned ex had it out for him, possibly later planting the pill bottle in his squad car.
The state argued numbers from that bottle matched the cancer patient's prescription.
Defense attorney John Trevena asked Smith, “Do you believe your girlfriend set you up?” Smith replied, “I believe, absolutely without a doubt.”
Smith claimed he also had a target on his back at the sheriff's office after his involvement in a shooting, and refused to follow the department's stop-and-question quota. Smith said a sheriff’s office supervisor coerced him to confess.
“’Steven, just tell them you have a drug addiction and everything will be going away.’ I said, 'I don't have a drug addiction. How dare you use my back problem against me,'” Smith says.
Smith admitted to taking painkillers for a year between two back surgeries.
The sheriff said that led to a drug-induced, downward spiral in Smith’s performance and a desperation for more pills.
“You’ll find the defendant is guilty of theft of a controlled substance,” said Prosecutor Richard Nolan.
Smith is also accused of pawning his sheriff's office gun and was supposed to be in court in Pasco County on Tuesday afternoon to face those charges. That pre-trial hearing has now been rescheduled.
Tuesday morning, Helinger shot down the defense's request to toss out the case against Smith without having the actual pills in evidence that he's accused of stealing.
“If the second district says, ‘Hey, this isn't enough,’ and they're going to say that if he's convicted, I'll get reversed. I'm perfectly comfortable with that,” says Helinger. “I don't know how much stronger, at least circumstantially, the case could get for the state.