Former public defender again on other side of law

WILLIAMSPORT — A former central Pennsylvania public defender who had defended clients in criminal court has again found himself on the other side of the law.

Stephen Chadwick Smith, an ex-Clinton County public defender, faces charges for allegedly taking area police on a 13-mile high-speed chase earlier this month that began on the Maynard Street bridge in Williamsport and ended only after he crashed his 1999 Porsche Carrera near the Main Street interchange of Jersey Shore, according to South Williams­port police.

“He drove in excess of 100 mph and forced two other motorists off the road,” borough Patrolman Jacob Summers wrote of the driver, Smith, 67, in an affidavit.

Smith practiced law out of his Water Street office for many years and also served as public defender in Clinton County.

Summers and a second officer riding with him, Patrolman Cody Lepley, first spotted Smith driving his sports car in the 700 block of Hastings Street about 3:30 a.m. on April 7.

Hours earlier, the officers had been told to be on the lookout for Smith because a bench warrant had been issued for his arrest after he missed a hearing before a judge the day before.

The officers were told that Smith “was suicidal, considered armed and dangerous and may attempt suicide by cop if stopped,” according to Summers’ affidavit. The term “suicide by cop” means an individual behaves in a threatening way with the intent of provoking a deadly response from a law enforcement officer.

While alerting other area officers via radio of Smith’s location, Summers and Lepley followed the driver and activated their cruiser’s emergency lights and siren, but Smith refused to stop.

Smith allegedly forced two other cars off Route 220 as he headed toward Jersey Shore at speeds that exceeded 100 mph, Summers said.

Tiadaghton Valley Re­gional police deployed spike strips at routes 220 and 287 in an effort to slow Smith down.

Several pieces from Smith’s front tires broke lose as he drove over the strips, Summers said, adding Smith continued until his car crashed into a guardrail and the car landed in the median.

Smith was taken by ambulance to a hospital where he was admitted with broken ribs and other injuries.

At the hospital, Smith made “several unsolicited comments,” including telling police he skipped a court hearing on April 6 because “he knew the judge did not like him,” Summers said.

Smith stated that on that Friday, he was “just going to go home and overdose on pills” instead of attending the hearing, Summers said.

Smith was arraigned Friday before District Gary A. Whiteman on felony fleeing police, recklessly endangering, careless driving and reckless driving. He was released on $10,000 bail.