Sheriff Donald Smith presenting a "leadership" award to Sgt. William Mikolay, who later would be charged with violent crimes in Albemarle County.
Written by: Sam Orlando
AUGUSTA COUNTY, VIRGINIA – Amidst the serene beauty of Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, a storm of controversy has been brewing for over a decade, casting a long shadow over Augusta County Sheriff Donald Smith. His tenure, marred with allegations from mishandling evidence to association with a convicted human trafficker, has riddled the sheriff's office with controversies, deeply challenging the community's trust in their law enforcement.
After the arrest of Sgt. William Mikolay of the Augusta County Sheriff's Office last week for felony malicious wounding and assault and battery, Breaking Through began an investigation to compile the various publicly known complaints and lawsuits against the Sheriff's office.
This list isn't complete. In all honestly it simply wasn't possible to pour through the sheer number of pages of complaints about Sheriff Donald Smith and his department, both in Court and online sources. This timeline will, however, help us understand how we have reached a place where two deputies are charged with violent crimes, one a felony with a five year minimum sentence.
2007: The Start of a Scandalous Era The controversy began in 2007 when Heidi Campbell, a sexual assault victim, accused Smith, then a patrol deputy, of mishandling crucial evidence in her case. This alleged negligence raised significant concerns about the integrity of the investigation and Smith's competence in sensitive cases.
Campbell's plight escalated with her lawsuit against the Staunton Newsleader, claiming a breach of contract for sharing confidential material with the sheriff, suggesting a collusion and cover-up. Recordings obtained by Breaking Through News corroborate these allegations, painting a disturbing picture.
2010 - 2021: Ties with Felix Chujoy, a Convicted Human Trafficker Smith's career took a controversial turn around 2010 when he befriended Felix Chujoy, later convicted of human trafficking. This relationship, enduring even amidst Chujoy's child sex solicitation charges, cast doubts on Smith's judgment and associations.
2012: Smith's Immediate Contact with Chujoy Post-Arrest In 2012, following Chujoy's arrest for soliciting sex from a minor, he immediately called Smith from jail. This connection, revealed through a FOIA request and Smith's federal court admission, raises serious questions about their relationship and Smith's potential involvement in Chujoy's activities.
2012: Support for Chujoy Amidst Child Molestation Charges Smith's support for Chujoy during his 2012 indictment for indecent liberties with a minor, including allowing Chujoy to use his phone and vehicle post-release, was unprecedented and deeply concerning.
2015 - 2016: Deception and Covert Tactics Smith was accused of deceiving federal investigators and using covert tactics to communicate with Chujoy. Audio recordings of their conversations contradicted Smith's statements to federal agents, deepening the cloud of suspicion over his administration.
2018: First Sergeant's Killing of Family Dog and Sheriff's Lack of Oversight In 2018, First Sergeant Michael Roane faced a lawsuit for the execution-style killing of a family pet dog on private property. This incident brought scrutiny on Roane and raised questions about Smith's oversight.
2019: Email Scandal and Compromised Confidential Information Smith's 2019 posting of a confidential email, which included his sister’s name, an unauthorized individual, on the official Facebook page, raised alarms about compromised sensitive law enforcement information.
2019: Illegal Police Actions and Rampant Abuse Reports in 2019 of excessive force and failure to turn over crucial evidence by county deputies suggested a culture of violence and lawlessness under Smith's leadership.
The significant rise in complaints against the sheriff's office in 2019 for illegal actions, including excessive use of force, highlighted potential systemic issues and declining public confidence in Smith's ability to lead.
2020: Allegations of Racist Behavior Accusations in 2020 of Smith using racial slurs and engaging in racially motivated conduct raised serious concerns about his ability to serve a diverse community.
2021: Differential Treatment Based on Race In 2021, Smith faced accusations of differential treatment based on race, especially evident during BLM protests, suggesting a trend of racial bias in his decisions.
2021: Involvement in the Theft of a BLM Sign Smith's alleged cover-up in the theft of a BLM sign equipped with a GPS tracking device pointed to a misuse of power and attempts to undermine movements against racial injustice.
2021: Cover-Up in Deputy's Car Accident Allegations of Smith covering up details of a deputy's car accident, including not disclosing the deputy's identity, added to the pattern of protecting deputies over transparency and accountability.
2022: Accusations of Perjury and Deception In December 2022, Smith faced allegations of perjury during a trial, with accusations of lying to federal agents about secret jail phone calls with a friend involved in a human trafficking case.
2022: The Ayano Nagaishi Incident Reporter Ayano Nagaishi's allegations of harassment and illegal search of her home by Smith in 2022 further eroded public trust in his leadership.
2023: Assault Charges Against Deputy Highlight Deeper Issues The August 2023 charges against Deputy CJ Taylor for assaulting a Black Lives Matter leader and another individual during a traffic stop in Staunton underscored systemic issues within the department.
2023: Revelations from Waynesboro Police Captain and Disbandment of the Drug Task Force Startling allegations from a lawsuit by former Waynesboro Police Captain Michael W. Martin in October 2023 revealed misconduct within the Augusta County Drug Task Force, leading to its disbandment by the state police.
A Community Seeking Answers The allegations against Sheriff Donald Smith over a decade challenge his integrity and leadership, contributing to a narrative of a law enforcement agency in crisis.
The legacy of Sheriff Donald Smith's tenure Smith's tenure, marked by these allegations, will leave an indelible mark on the history of law enforcement in Augusta County and continues to be scrutinized by a community seeking answers and justice.
2023: A Pattern of Violence and the Urgent Need for Accountability The recent cases against Sgt. William Mikolay and Deputy CJ Taylor reveal a disturbing pattern of alleged violence within the Augusta County Sheriff's Office, calling for an urgent reassessment of the department's culture and practices. These incidents, coupled with Sheriff Smith's unwavering support for the accused deputies, highlight the necessity for systemic change and accountability. The community's demand for justice and reform in the face of these allegations is a critical step towards restoring trust and integrity in the sheriff's office.