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Police officer convicted of sexually assaulting woman during traffic stop on his first solo shift

 (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

A police officer in Oklahoma switched off his body-worn camera before sexually assaulting a woman, after he had pulled her boyfriend over for speeding.

Now a former Savanna officer, Jeffrey Scott Smith, is facing up to 40 years in prison for the assault in the first case prosecuted under tougher laws on violence against women.

Smith, 35, was on his first solo shift for Savanna PD on 2 November 2022 when he carried out the traffic stop.

The victim, known in court as K.H., and her boyfriend, known as J.G., were both in the vehicle. Smith realised that the boyfriend’s licence had expired and asked them to both get out of the car and switch who was driving.

After issuing a speeding ticket, the officer then started asking personal questions, including how long had the couple been together.

He then turned his body-worn camera off.

Smith then asked K.H. what she did for work and she told him, reluctantly, that she was a dancer at a gentlemen’s club. The officer then searched the vehicle and found a promotional, pre-rolled marijuana cigarette.

At this point, Mr Smith could have issued the woman a ticket or arrested her. Instead, he walked to his vehicle and turned off the dashboard camera as well.

Then once inside the patrol car, Smith sexually assaulted K.H.

“It’s impossible to comprehend why the defendant felt entitled to treat an innocent woman this way,” Special Agent in Charge Edward J. Gray of the FBI Oklahoma City Field Office said in a press release. “Instead of ensuring a safe environment for the victim, Smith abused his authority for his own sick gratification.

“When an officer violates the rights of any citizen, they put the public’s trust in law enforcement at risk. The FBI will not stand for this egregious behaviour.”

After a federal jury returned a guilty verdict on Wednesday, Smith faces up to 40 years in prison on the sexual assault/civil rights count, as well as 20 years on each of the obstruction of justice counts: one for deactivating his body-worn camera, and one for deactivating his dashboard camera.

The guilty verdict is the first sexual assault conviction under the 2022 Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which added enhanced penalties for civil rights offenses involving sexual misconduct.

“Today the Department of Justice sends an unequivocal warning: we will hold accountable those who abuse their authority by engaging in sexual assault,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said. “That’s exactly why we advocated so strongly for reauthorization of VAWA two years ago.

“This may be the first time we have used the new enhanced penalties for civil rights violations involving sexual assault but it will not be the last. We will work tirelessly to seek Justice for survivors of sexual assault.”

Smith has been detained, pending a sentencing hearing at a later date.