Son of sheriff's candidate accused of sexual misconduct with a minor gets probation

NOW: Son of sheriff’s candidate accused of sexual misconduct with a minor gets probation

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WARSAW, Ind. --- Zachary Smith, the son of Kosciusko County Sheriff Candidate Jim Smith, is sentenced to one year in jail by a Kosciusko County Judge that he will serve on probation for the night he allegedly had sex with a 14-year-old girl.

Smith, 19, was charged with maintaining a common nuisance, a level 6 felony; and battery, a class B misdemeanor.

The charges stem from a July 4, 2021 incident where Smith, then 18, brought a group of underage girls to a storage unit in North Webster where he gave them drugs and alcohol. That same night he allegedly had sex with a 14-year-old girl and asked her not to tell anyone, according to court documents. 

Witnesses confirm Smith gave the child marijuana and engaged in sexual activities with her. The case was originally given to Indiana State Police by the Department of Child Services for potential sexual misconduct with a minor charges. 

In court, the victim shared in a statement that she originally did not want Zach to get in trouble. 

"I thought it was my fault, but it wasn't," her statement reads. "It wasn't until further along down the road in this case that I educated myself and realized you knew right from wrong. I remember that night at the storage unit when you told me I had to promise you that I wouldn't tell anyone... The age of consent in Indiana is 16, I was 14. When you bring drugs and alcohol into the mix, it doesn't matter your age. Your are not in the right mind[set] to make decisions like having sex."

The victim went on to mention that the sexual incident took a toll on her mental health. Her parents tell ABC57 she was removed from school because of the bullying she endured. 

"it's weird to admit but if I didn't reach out for help I don't know if I would still be here today," the victim said. "I don't want you [Zach] to feel bad for me, but I want you to know how it affected me and I want you to be held/feel accountable for this."

Smith was never charged with a sex crime because the victim consented to sex and maintained a relationship with Smith prior to their initial encounter, an ABC57 investigation revealed.

"I don't agree that this was consensual," the victim's mother shared in a court statement. "Our daughter was 14, I don't see how she can consent, she was not 16. The law is supposed to protect her.

Smith will serve one year on probation for his charges and must comply with all probationary rules, including not contacting the victim. He was also order to pay $845.87 in restitution to the victim and their family for counseling costs. He also owes the court $185 for court costs and filing fees. 

Smith has the opportunity to petition the court for misdemeanor treatment after completing his probation.

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