A former Pinellas County sheriff’s deputy went on trial last week on allegations that he stole prescription medication turned into the department for destruction and pawned his department-issued duty firearm.
Steven Jared Smith is being charged with possession of hydrocodone, grand theft, and grand theft of law-enforcement equipment. The 32-year-old was arrested in mid-October immediately after his firing from the sheriff’s department and released the next day after posting a $17,000 bond.
According to attorneys from the state, Smith appropriated medicine brought to the department by the sister of a recently-deceased woman for himself rather than destroying it as instructed. They told the court that a video recording in their possession shows Smith apparently secreting the pills in a brown paper bag he used earlier that day to carry his lunch to work.
The sheriff’s department said Smith was in possession of around three hundred pills of medication for which he did not have a prescription. In addition, investigators say he was unable to return his department-issued Glock 30 .45 ACP semiautomatic pistol, telling them that he pawned it for $250 at a pawn shop in New Port Richey to help cover financial problems he said he was experiencing at the time.
Smith’s attorneys say the prosecution based their case on the word of his former girlfriend who held a vendetta against him. His attorneys say a photo entered into evidence by the prosecution showing an empty vial of pills in the trunk of his patrol car do not reveal who placed the container there, or for what purpose they were placed in his trunk.
The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office hired Smith in October 2012 from the Baker County Sheriff’s Office. He was given a patrol job for almost a year, then transferred to the narcotics unit in September the following year. According to the department, Smith began having significant discipline and performance issues shortly thereafter. Although he had write-ups by the department prior to reassignment, Smith’s issues became worse in that position, possibly exacerbated by chronic back pain that was made worse by long stretches of sitting at a desk. The 6’1″ deputy was prescribed painkillers to treat the problem, which the department suggests started him down the road to opioid addiction.