Former #Albertville attorney #pleads #guilty to #child porn #charge

A former Albertville attorney pleaded guilty to child pornography charges this week in U.S. District Court and is scheduled for sentencing early next year.

Steven Vincent Smith, then 52, was arrested in March 2016. He pleaded guilty to a count of receiving child pornography.

His sentencing is Feb. 13. He faces 5 to 20 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000 or both.

After serving his sentence, he will be placed on supervised release for 5 years to life. He will have to register as a sex offender, can have no contact with a child under 18 (including telephone or internet) without the presence of an adult and advance approval from his probation officer, must complete a sex offender treatment program and will be barred from using a computer or device with internet access unless approved by his probation office or required for employment.

According to the plea agreement, the federal sentencing guidelines are advisory, sentencing recommendations from prosecutors are not binding and his actual sentencing is up to the court’s discretion.

At the time of Smith’s arrest, he was a practicing attorney and served as a fill-in municipal judge in Albertville.

He was indicted by a Marshall County grand jury on child pornography charges, charges of sexual abuse of a child under 12 and first-degree sodomy. Because he practiced law in Marshall County, the Etowah County District Attorney’s office agreed to prosecute the case.

Etowah County Deputy District Attorney Marcus Reid said the office had been aware that Smith planned to plead guilty in federal court, and with that plea and sentencing, the state charges likely will be dropped.

In 2014, the FBI began an online undercover investigation aimed at identifying people using a particular website to access and receive images of child pornography. Agents determined a particular user had accessed this website using a unique screen name and a particular Internet Protocol address between Sept. 4, 2014, and Feb. 24, 2015.

The user made multiple comments on the website’s forum pages regarding posted pornographic images involving children.

Law enforcement analyzed records from the IP address and determined Smith was using a computer at his residence in Albertville to receive child porn, and learned he was an attorney.

On March 18, 2016, federal agents and local law enforcement officers with a federal search warrant went to Smith’s residence and found, among other things, an HP 16 GB thumb drive with images of child pornography as well as photos of the defendant’s stepdaughter and another girl dressed in bathing suits, playing on a trampoline.

According to the plea agreement, Smith was present during the search. He claimed a client gave him the thumb drive. He could not, however, account for the photos of his stepdaughter, and was arrested on the state charges.

Federal agents and police searched Smith’s office the same day, seizing among other things two disc drives, a hard drive, a laptop computer, a tablet, two thumb drives and various CDs and DVDs.

A filter team was used to examine the material and ensure that no privileged attorney-client material was passed on to prosecutors. Forensic examination of the devices revealed seven videos and 4,920 images of child pornography. The images were of real children engaged in sexually explicit conduct including actual or simulated sexual intercourse, and exposing their genitals and pubic areas.

Smith signed the plea agreement, indicating the facts were substantially correct. The government agreed to recommend sentencing consideration based on his “apparent prompt recognition and affirmative acceptance of personal responsibility for his criminal conduct,” and his prompt notification of the intention to plead guilty.