A man who pleaded guilty in July to sexually exploiting a minor who resided outside the country was sentenced to prison on Thursday.
Nicholas Larry Smith, 36, was sentenced to an indeterminate term of 1-15 years in the Utah State Prison. Judge Brian Cannell said Smith avoided consecutive sentences due to personal efforts made toward treatment and showing some level of remorse.
For Cannell, it appeared Smith was “getting a glimpse” that on the other side of a computer screen there are real people and real harm done.
Defense attorney Raymond Malouf argued in favor of a probationary sentence for his client, stating Smith had no criminal history, was not a risk to the community and had been on supervision for years with no new offenses.
Malouf said medical issues including a traumatic brain injury and a stroke likely contributed to his client’s behavior. However, Malouf said he was “very impressed” with Smith’s improvement through treatment and “greatly respected” Smith for life changes made.
“He is not that person now,” Malouf told the court.
Smith tearfully apologized for his behavior.
“I am ashamed,” Smith said. “I’ve messed up and I’ve made horrible mistakes.”
Smith spoke to his own childhood trauma and addiction issues that lead to lost time with his family. He also told the court of vascular dementia that had hampered his memory of the incidents. Smith said he wanted to take responsibility and would do whatever was required to gain the trust of the court and the community.
A family member of Smith’s also addressed the court and said she was very proud of Smith’s progress in treatment and willingness to help those in need.
However, Cache County prosecutor Dane Murray told the court that there were “significant issues” with statements Smith made in psycho-sexual evaluation; Murray said Smith didn’t admit to crimes committed and “blamed the victim.” According to Murray, Smith lied about knowing the minor victim’s true age and exploited the victim for six years online as she resides in the United Kingdom.
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For Murray, Smith’s behavior was not impulsive, but planned. Murray said Smith groomed the victim, formed a “BDSM relationship” online and had her perform sex acts on command. Murray said Smith’s “disgusting” behavior was as close to in-person abuse as one can get over the internet.