A former Pinellas Deputy is breaking his silence about the charges against him. Steven Smith was fired last week and charged with theft and possession of a controlled substance.
For four years, Smith was a model deputy but things went downhill fast after an ex-girlfriend told investigators he started using prescription drugs.
His attorney, John Trevena, says Smith is a whistleblower and was targeted when he spoke out against policies within the department. Smith complained about a policy which called for deputies to question 30 citizens a month with field interviews and subsequent reports.
Trevena expounded with more details, like the shooting Smith was involved in back in April 2013. A suspect jumped from a vehicle with what appeared to be an AR-15 rifle and ran. Smith says he was questioned more than once about the incident, and Trevena says there's a reason why.
“They tried to specifically shape Deputy Smith’s testimony about the incident that we feel was improper," he said. "It was essentially witness tampering.”
After Smith was arrested, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said Smith had a drug problem, "He was trying to mask it and hide it. We knew there was a problem," he said.
Smith was charged with grand theft and possession of a controlled substance. Trevena said there is a big problem with the drug charge
“In my 31 years of practicing law I have yet to see a case where someone is charged with possession, direct possession of a controlled substance, and there are no controlled substances to offer into evidence. No drugs.”
Trevena says there have been a number of cases involving deputies on the wrong side of the law, but he says this was a clear rush to judgment.
“Sheriff Gualtieri has had a number of cases of deputies admittedly committing criminal offenses, but they have never been charged criminally,” he said.
Smith says he's looking for just one thing.
“I need to get my name back. That’s the most important thing in my life right now. Who I am as a man, who I am as a father, who I was as a deputy.”
We reached out to the sheriff’s office about Smith. We were told they've said all they will say about Smith's firing.
Trevena, meanwhile, plans to hold a press conference Thursday, which 10News will attend.