Jon Ostendorff reports for the Asheville Citizen-Times that the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigations’ senior polygraph examiner, Special Agent Chris Smith, who supervises all the Bureau’s polygraphers, was arrested and charged with assault in August 2009. Smith is currently free on $200,000 bond:
SYLVA — The State Bureau of Investigation’s top polygraph agent is charged with assaulting a man suspected of molesting a child in Jackson County.
The SBI put Special Agent Chris Smith on administrative duty Sept. 8 while internal affairs investigators looked into allegations that he pushed Whittier resident Kenneth Rhinehart into a wall, a spokeswoman for the agency said Monday.
He remains on that assignment, which means he can’t participate in investigations.
His court date is scheduled for Dec. 1.
The agency gave its report on the incident to District Attorney Michael Bonfoey in October.
The state assigned Cleveland County District Attorney Rick Shaffer to handle the prosecution after Bonfoey recused his office because it has worked closely with Smith as a police witness in the past.
The allegation could have ramifications in other sex crimes cases in Jackson County, where Smith performed lie-detector tests.
He is the SBI’s polygraph coordinator, overseeing all of the state’s lie detector agents. He has been with the agency since 1997.
One defense attorney has asked the state for information about Smith’s credibility as a witness.
Another has asked the state to continue his client’s case, saying he is expecting investigative material on the interrogation of witnesses.
Smith did not immediately respond to a message left at his office in Asheville.
Rhinehart did not immediately respond to a message.
Rhinehart swore out the misdemeanor charge before Magistrate A.O. Reagan, who issued a criminal summons for Smith on Nov. 5.
The warrant alleges that Smith on April 23 assaulted Rhinehart by “grabbing (him) with his hands, pulling him out of a chair and pushing him into a wall.”
The court papers don’t say why the two men were together that day. Reagan declined to discuss the reason he issued the warrant.
Rhinehart is charged with first-degree sex offense on a girl younger than 13 between January 2006 and March 2008 who was living in his home at the time.
He was arrested in August and released on $200,000 bond.
Part of Smith’s duties, according to court papers, is to perform lie-detector exams on suspects for law enforcement agencies across the state.
Shaffer said he is reviewing the file and will either try the case or dismiss it.
Special Agent Chris Smith is also alleged to have told a suspect in another recent child molestation investigation that he had failed the polygraph, and to have proceeded with a harsh interrogation, whereas a later review found the outcome to be inconclusive. Charges against that suspect, Chris Hoover, were later dropped. But Hoover, who had been employed with the Macon County Sheriff’s Office was fired, evidently based on the results of that polygraph “test.” See Macon County News staff writer David Tell’s 1 October 2009 article, “Hoover speaks out: Never ‘failed’ lie detector test.”
Special Agent Smith is also alleged to have coerced a false confession from daycare operator Michael Bradley of Franklin, NC, who confessed to sexual penetration of a three-year old boy after “failing” a polygraph “test.” Bradley was found innocent of all charges at trial. See Macon County News staff writer Tony Wheeler’s 22 January 2009 article, “Not guilty: Jury finds Bradley innocent of sex crimes against toddler.”