Disturbing Details Emerge in Deputy Firings, “Sick mind game” Says Former Deputy
HERNANDO – Last week we reported the firing of two Hernando County Jail Detention Deputies, after an investigation revealed that inappropriate activity occurred with former inmates.
The first firing occurred on July 10th when officials terminated 5-year veteran Sgt. John Baja, for conduct unbecoming of an officer and violating staff/inmate policy.
The second, a 2-year veteran of the agency, Deputy Joshua Smith was fired on July 31st for violating the same policies.
The Sheriff’s Office has now released a full summary into both cases, revealing the details into what led up to their termination from the agency.
According to reports, between January 18th and February 25th of this year, Smith engaged in a “romantic association” with former inmate Samantha Baumstark. Officials say Smith made advances towards Baumstark while she was incarcerated. After her release, investigators say Smith contacted Baumstark on Facebook and began messaging by cell phone. The content of those messages included multiple pornographic images of both individuals, say officials.
On March 13th Baumstark was booked into the jail on charges of Grand Theft, where she says Smith contacted her on two occasions but denied having physical contact with him.
Baumstark was released today after serving a 6-month sentence for that charge.
Days after Smith’s firing, a family member who wished to remain anonymous, contacted RNRF and provided some disturbing details into to Smith’s personal life.
According to that source, who wished to remain anonymous, Smith’s wife, a local attorney, was pregnant with their first child and gave birth just days after news broke of his alleged infidelities. Smith’s wife has since filed for divorce.
Similar circumstances surrounded the firing of Sgt. Baja, after investigators discovered an inappropriate relationship with former inmate, Shelby Schechter.
According to reports, while Schechter was incarcerated between August 10th and August 30th of 2013, she worked as trustee in the booking area of the jail. Schechter claims that during the evenings, she would meet with Baja and they would kiss. Schechter also admits to lifting her shirt so that Baja could touch her breasts during those encounters.
The report also suggests that Schechter received special treatment during her incarceration; including claims that she received a new pair of boots and mattress.
During the investigation, it was revealed that Baja used his department email address and personal cell phone to communicate with Schechter after her release. Pictures of Baja pulling his shorts down and topless photos of Schechter were located on Baja’s cell phone.
Baja denies all the allegations and says he was just playing a sick mind game on Schechter. Baja was terminated on July 10th for violating the same policies as Smith.
Neither deputy placed the facility at risk nor did they neglect their duties, according to officials.
None of the incidents were captured on video, but former inmates say that isn’t unusual because deputies are fully aware of “blind spots” where similar activities occur on a regular basis.
It should be noted that on August 5th, Shelby Schechter was taken into custody – charged with violating her probation. Officials are not commenting on the details of what led to Schechter’s violation at this time.
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