Haywood County, NC — A Haywood County detective was sentenced to 7.5 years in prison this week for breaking into the evidence locker and dealing heroin. Kevin Smathers was terminated from the Haywood County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) in August 2018 after his crimes were discovered and the State Bureau of Investigations (SBI) was asked to come and investigate. During his time as a detective, Smathers was undoubtedly responsible for putting drug dealers behind bars—only to become one himself.
After the scandal came to light, the Sheriff’s Office asked for outside auditors to take inventory of the evidence room. Following the audit, in the Spring of 2019, Smathers was indicted on 16 counts of breaking and entering (Evidence Room) and 1 count of trafficking opium or heroin.
Smathers started with the HCSO in 2007 and eventually worked his way up to being appointed as a detective within the department. Sheriff Greg Christopher issued the following press release which reads in part:
This situation is devastating for so many people — for the employees of this office who work incredibly hard every day to meet high performance standards this line of work requires, and for our citizens who place their trust in law enforcement to help them when they are in need.
Apparently worse than substandard police work, Smathers’ actions undermined not only the community’s trust but also the judicial process for each and every suspect with which he had contact. Any defense attorney worth his weight in salt would now be poised to help get his/her clients released because the deputy turned detective has now been proven to be unreliable and incredible.
In other words, each and every case in which someone went to jail or prison under this bad cop runs the risk of being overturned. Not only are overturned convictions at stake but those who’ve been wrongfully arrested may be able to have not only their convictions overturned but might be entitled to financial compensation as well.
Christopher’s statement continues:
I am very sorry for the pain Kevin’s family has endured as a result of this incident and will continue endure…This incident caused our office to review and completely revamp our evidence policy and procedures to include a 100 percent item-by-item audit conducted by an independent company.
Christopher has since hired a full-time staffer to manage the evidence room, presumably to prevent a recurrence of the theft. The sheriff also alluded to the erosion of the community’s trust while saying:
For years, our office has worked very hard to build and maintain a level of professionalism and integrity that our law-abiding citizens can be proud of, and we are committed to continuing this environment of trust and effectiveness that our communities deserve.
Along with Smathers’ 90-120 months in prison, the former police detective has been ordered to pay a mandatory $100,000 fine. Sheriff Christopher’s earlier statement made at the time of the arrest sums up what he perceived to be the damage done when Smathers’ crimes rose to the surface. He wrote:
We ask the citizens of our county who have placed their trust in our office to remember this deeply concerning situation does not align in any way with the ethics and integrity of this office…We will continue to work diligently in our communities to cultivate trust and partnerships that enhance the quality of life for our citizens.
The mandatory prison terms and fines associated with the detective’s sentencing further underscores the need for the government to cease its War on Drugs. Jailing a drug addict only delays the inevitable. The addict, upon release from jail, almost always returns to the drug.
Society must take contemplative approaches as to how we treat drug addicts. Putting drug users in prison with violent, hardened criminals, not only does nothing to reform the person, it only adds to the degradation of individuals and leads to a morally bankrupt society.