published Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

Former Hamilton County Sheriff's Office jail sergeant seeks diversion in theft

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    Former Hamilton County Jail sergeant, Wanda Henry Smith
    Photo by Ben Benton /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

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A former Hamilton County Sheriff's Office corrections sergeant accused of stealing an inmate's food stamp card will try to seek judicial diversion.

"This is her first time, your honor," Jay Clements, a private defense attorney appointed to represent former Sgt. Wanda Smith, said in Hamilton County Criminal Judge Barry Steelman's courtroom Wednesday morning.

Smith, who resigned from the sheriff's office when the accusation was brought to light, faces charges of official misconduct and theft of property under $500.

She reportedly stole inmate Greg Sciance's food stamp card, changed the PIN number and used it at local stores near her home in Dunlap, Tenn.

Sciance said his card was missing from his wallet when he was released after serving time for violating his probation on a theft charge. When he realized the balance was low on his card, he learned eight purchases were made on his card while he was in jail. He also learned the PIN number was changed by someone using his Social Security number.

Social Security numbers of inmates are listed on arrest reports.

Clements said Smith, who was not present in court, remains unemployed. He plans to check to see if Smith is eligible for judicial diversion, which is often granted for first-time offenders and places them on probation for less serious offenses.

Smith worked at the sheriff's office for 12 years before she resigned.

Her next court date is set for 9 a.m. May 16.

Contact staff writer Beth Burger at bburger@times freepress.com or 423-757-6406. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/abburger.

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