Life seemed to be going well for Darron Smith. In 2014, Smith was well into his second year as an assistant professor at the University of Tennessee in Memphis, which had recruited him to a tenure track position.
“I was recruited here and thought this was going to be a great place for me to be. I was coming home to my own state,” said Smith.
Smith and fiancée Tasha Sabino were discussing marriage.
“We think we’re moving toward growing our family and this comes and hits us,” Sabino said.
It was a federal indictment charging Smith with four counts of theft and one of wire fraud. Turns out Smith, who had dedicated 17 years in the National Guard and Army Reserve, was charged by the very government he served.
“I was stunned, I couldn’t believe it. I was stunned,” Smith said.
80 soldiers were convicted or pleaded guilty. But many others like Smith were indicted, only to be acquitted or have the charges dropped.
“Our country says you’re innocent until proven guilty but the reality is if your brought up on charges we automatically assume you’re guilty,” Sabino said.
The day after Smith learned of the indictment, he claims UT suspended him without pay, eventually ending his career as a “termination.”
“The way they got rid of me, my students think I am some kind of…All of that stuff, it just grates and again it ruins your career and it ruins your reputation, things I worked hard on.”
Sabino supported the family financially but kept their struggle private
“After we told our parents, they wondered why we had kept it quiet for so long. But I want my parents to look at him in a positive light,” Sabino said.
Smith is pursuing litigation against the UT in part claiming wrongful termination.
Featured Content and Media: Local Memphis 24