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By Echo Menges
The effects of former Knox County Sheriff’s Deputy Howard Smith’s termination from the KCSO are rippling through the Knox County criminal court system. Three cases being prosecuted in Knox County have already been dismissed after the Knox County Prosecutor, David Brown, and Assistant Prosecutor, Jo Fortney, agreed they were not able to proceed with the three cases which were investigated by Smith.
The biggest blow to the Prosecutor’s Office is the dismissal of the case they were pursuing against Douglas Hagerla, who was facing a charge of First Degree Deviant Sexual Intercourse With A Person Under 14, which was filed in 2009. It was one of the Knox County’s most high profile criminal cases.
“That was one we were vigorously pursuing for obvious reasons,” said Knox County Prosecutor, David Brown. “If it were not for the Howard Smith thing we would not have ever considered completely dropping that case. Both the Attorney General’s office and our office were prepared to take the Hagerla case all the way to trial. The Attorney General’s Office agreed with us that the fact that Howard Smith was the primary investigator forced us to dismiss the case.”
The prosecutors filed a dismissal of the Hagerla case based on the consensus that it could not be prosecuted because of Smith’s involvement in the investigation early last week along with two other cases.
The case against Ronald Howe, which began in April of last year, was dismissed. Howe was facing felony drug possession charges and was set to be in court for a trial setting hearing this month.
“Howard Smith took possession of some of the evidence in the Howe case and had it in his custody the whole time. There’s no way to get that evidence in because it was Howard that was investigating and we can’t put him on the stand,” said Brown.
The open cases against Jimmy Schrage were also dismissed. Schrage faced numerous charges arising from a traffic stop made by Smith in March of last year.
“Howard was the investigator and there’s no way to get his
testimony,” said Brown.
The prosecutor pointed out cases investigated by law enforcement officials other than Howard Smith will continue to be prosecuted and Smith’s involvement in criminal cases in Knox County doesn’t necessarily seal their fate as not being prosecutable.
“Cases investigated by the Sheriff himself or by agencies like Division of Drug and Crime Control will continue to be prosecuted,” said Brown. “We’re going to take it on a case by case basis.”
Smith was terminated from the KCSO around the beginning of the year after allegedly stealing property and evidence from the Sheriff’s office and allegedly selling the items on the online sales website “ebay.” The Missouri State Highway Patrol Division of Drug and Crime Control is conducting an investigation into the Knox County Sheriff’s Office. So far no criminal charges have been filed against Smith.