Originally created 07/20/02

SRS worker convicted on perjury charges



AIKEN - A Savannah River Site employee was convicted Friday of making false statements of sexual harassment and could face up to 45 years in prison.

Shirley E. Smith, an employee in the Department of Energy's Equal Employment Opportunity office, was found guilty on seven counts of perjury for her accusations against Henry "Hank" Harris, also a DOE employee.

Mrs. Smith will be sentenced within 90 days, according to U.S. District Court Judge Cameron Currie. Until then, she will remain free on bond.

Mrs. Smith made allegations that Mr. Harris had exposed himself, offered her money to have sex and raped her in a SRS office in fall 1998. She filed a claim with the DOE in May 2001 that was later denied.

After federal officials investigated Mrs. Smith's claims, perjury charges were filed against her.

On Friday, before jurors returned their guilty verdict, U.S. Prosecutor Eric Ruschky told them Mrs. Smith made her allegations because she was not given a promotion.

He told jurors that Mr. Harris and Mrs. Smith had been having an affair since 1994 and questioned why she waited three years after the alleged 1998 rape to report it.

Mrs. Smith's attorney, I.S. Leevy Johnson, argued that his client was being wrongly targeted.

"She could foresee that management, Wackenhut and nobody else would help her, and they didn't," he said to the jury. "When you have voluntary sex with a woman, that doesn't give you a season pass. A woman has a right to say no."

The prosecutor, however, challenged several statements Mrs. Smith had made to investigators, including dates on which she said Mr. Harris had harassed her. In one case, Mrs. Smith told investigators Mr. Harris touched her against her will while at work July 3, 1998, a Friday.

Mr. Ruschky pointed out to jurors that federal employees did not work on that date because Independence Day fell on a Saturday.

"Nothing this woman has said is true," he said.

Reach Josh Gelinas at (803)279-6895 or josh.gelinas@augustachronicle.com.