FORT WORTH, Texas — A longtime Boy Scouts of America official who directed a national task force to protect children from sexual abuse pleaded guilty Wednesday to possession and distribution of child pornography.
Douglas Sovereign Smith Jr. entered his plea without making a deal with prosecutors. “He’s willing to accept responsibility. ... Obviously, he wanted to get this behind him,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Bret Helmer said.
Smith’s only comments in court were one-word answers to a judge’s questions.
“He is contrite,” said Jack Strickland, Smith’s attorney. “He has accepted responsibility.”
Authorities found 520 images of child pornography, including video clips, on Smith’s home computer but none on his work computer, Helmer said. There was no evidence Smith had inappropriate contact with children, he said.
He received pictures and sent them to other people but did not sell them, Helmer said. Officials don’t believe he sent the images to other Boy Scout officials.
Faces 5-20 years in prison
Smith was accused of receiving images over the Internet of children engaging in oral sex, intercourse and other sexually explicit conduct. The charges were filed by federal prosecutors March 21.
Appearing in federal court in Fort Worth, Smith waived his indictment, thus consenting to sentencing guidelines that range from 5 to 20 years in prison.
Smith, 61, was released until his sentencing date, which a judge set for July 12th.
On Tuesday, the Boy Scouts of America voiced disbelief.
“We’re shocked and dismayed to learn of this,” said spokesman Gregg Shields. “Smith was employed by the Boy Scouts for 39 years and we had no indication of prior criminal activity.”
No Boy Scouts in photos
Law enforcement officials indicated the pictures did not show boys who were with the Boy Scouts organization, Shields said.
Smith was a national program director and staff adviser of the Boy Scout’s renowned Youth Protection Task Force.
Shields said Smith took over the task force a couple of years ago when another employee retired. Smith managed the distribution of literature, video tapes, a Web site and other resources that teach children and adults at schools, churches and Boy Scout troops how to detect and prevent child abuse.
Smith’s job did not involve working directly with children, Shields said. Smith was put on leave immediately after the Boy Scouts officials learned of charges, then chose to retire, he said.
Smith’s indictment was the result of a joint investigation between German and U.S. authorities to look into child porn distributed over the Internet.
Authorities said they found e-mails containing child porn from Smith on the computer of a German man.
Dean Boyd, a spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the investigative arm of the Homeland Security Department, declined to talk specifically about Smith’s case, but said it is the kind that authorities take special care to investigate.
The Boy Scouts have had other problems with their personnel, including volunteers. A California court case in the early 1990s revealed about 2,000 cases of sexual abuse of scouts and other boys that Boy Scouts officials had documented privately for two decades without telling law enforcement officials.
The organization's national headquarters are in the Dallas suburb of Irving.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.