Originally created 05/16/03

Convicted liar gets 2 years



AIKEN - A former Savannah River Site employee convicted in July of concocting rape and sexual harassment charges was sentenced this week in Columbia to more than two years in federal prison.

A spokeswoman for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Washington said it could be the first time a federal employee has been convicted of such a crime for statements made during the commission's discovery process.

Shirley E. Smith, who worked at the Energy Department's Savannah River Equal Employment Opportunity Office, claimed she was assaulted and subjected to various other indignities in fall 1998.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Ruschky said the sentencing hearing Wednesday under District Judge Cameron M. Currie took two hours. He agreed with Jennifer Kaplan of the employment office that the case was "pretty unusual."

"We want to make sure that this is not taken as a message to other federal employees that they should be fearful," Ms. Kaplan said. "I would say that is literally a unique situation."

Mr. Ruschky said the case was so vigorously pursued because of his office's belief Ms. Smith's accusations were false, although Ms. Smith has not recanted.

Ms. Smith was convicted of four counts of giving false statements to the Energy Department, two counts of filing a false claim and one count of perjury before a federal administrative judge.

Ms. Smith's boss, Henry "Hank" Harris, was cleared of any wrongdoing. An extramarital affair between the two predated the accusations, but Mr. Harris said the sex was always consensual and never at work.

Reach Eric Williamson at (803) 279-6895 or eric.williamson@augustachronicle.com.