URBANA – Brady Smith, a former probation officer and middle school dean convicted of trying to get a child to perform a sex act, was resentenced to prison Monday.
Smith, 47, of Urbana, was convicted at a bench trial on Nov. 13, 2001, of indecent solicitation of a child for attempting to get a 14-year-old boy to have sex with him on May 20, 2001. He was originally sentenced to three years of probation.
Judge J.G. Townsend resentenced Smith to four years in prison, saying it would fail to communicate the seriousness of the crime and fail to deter Smith or others if he were not sent to prison. Smith was taken into custody immediately, smiling and winking in a gesture toward his mother, who was sitting in the courtroom.
In late February, prosecutors filed a petition to revoke probation based on a box of firearm ammunition found in a search of Smith's home by probation officers from Macon County, where Smith's probation was transferred because of his former work as a Champaign County probation officer. As a convicted felon, Smith is not allowed to have guns or ammunition in his possession.
At that time, Champaign County prosecutors also filed a new charge of unlawful possession of weapons by a felon based on the same box of ammunition seized at his home. At a separate hearing Monday, that case was continued to a pretrial hearing Aug. 27 with a trial set for September.
Smith also faces a series of civil trials in federal court, where young men have claimed in lawsuits that Smith groomed them for sexual abuse and that Champaign school officials did not prevent the abuse.
Smith had worked as an interim dean and dean at Franklin Middle School from 1994 to 2001, when the criminal charges were filed. Following the conviction, Smith's teaching certificate also was revoked.
Assistant State's Attorney Elizabeth Dobson had said earlier that the delay in the petition was because prosecutors were not immediately informed of the ammunition by Macon County probation officers, and then the ammunition had to be tested.
Smith's defense attorney, Kevin Sullivan of Peoria, argued Monday that Smith should not be sent to prison for the ammunition violation, which was the only allegation in the petition to revoke probation. Regarding evidence presented in the revocation hearing that Smith had contact with people under age 18, Sullivan said the court order in Smith's probation only prevented him from contact with three specific young people.
Smith took the stand Monday and admitted that he had had contact with other young people, including former students, at his home while he was on probation, but said that the youths always initiated the contacts.
"It was always by the minors," Smith said.
He explained that young people had always come to him for advice while he was a dean and that they continued doing so. Smith said that he always told them that they had to go away, that he could have no contact with minors.
Smith said he asked Macon County probation officers what their county's rules meant when they said he could not initiate or maintain contact with any minors.
"He told me it was a high-risk situation for me, but if someone came to my house and spoke to me and I told them to leave and they left, it was not a problem," Smith testified one probation officer told him.
According to Smith, another probation officer told him that he didn't care about the contact with minors as long as there was another adult present.
Dobson argued that the evidence, including Smith's own testimony, showed that he won't change his attitude and thus poses a risk to the community. She repeatedly questioned Smith about whether he now admits that he solicited a child to commit sex, but he only said that he admits he was convicted of that offense.
Townsend appeared to agree, saying that what he heard from Smith made him believe that Smith's prospects for rehabilitation were poor.
The judge said it was "truly troubling" to consider the timing of the probation violation and the filing of the petition to revoke probation and that there were obvious weaknesses of communication between the Macon County probation department and Champaign County prosecutors and in some of the decisions by the state's attorney's office.
But Townsend said it "borders on the preposterous" for a man of Smith's education and work experience as a probation officer to not understand the problems he caused for himself.
You can reach Steve Bauer at (217) 351-5318 or via e-mail at email@example.com.