Judge Erik Blaine reconvenes court after Justin Smith potentially cut his electronic monitoring device and did not show up for closing arguments in his trial after he testified in his own defense.

Defendant in sex crimes case testified, went to lunch and never returned. Now police are searching for him.

A Germantown youth soccer coach accused of sex crimes admitted to sexual contact but not sexual conduct with a 14-year-old girl on his team before going missing in the afternoon during his trial in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court.

Pretrial services employee Lafayette Christian testified that around noon on Wednesday, Justin K. Smith may have cut off his electronic monitoring device, which last gave a signal near Franklin. The clerk of courts issued a capias for Smith’s arrest, according to Judge Erik Blaine.

The bench trial ended with closing arguments — as Smith’s chair sat empty — and Blaine said he would inform all sides when he has reached a decision.

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“It is” strange, Montgomery County assistant prosecutor Dylan Smearcheck said, adding that Smith’s disappearance caught everyone by surprise. “Without the defendant present, it changes the dynamics of the courtroom. But it doesn’t change the facts.”

Prosecutors said they found out quickly that the alleged victim was safely with her family.

“We would just ask that if anyone sees or hears from Mr. Smith that they report it immediately to the authorities,” Smearcheck said.

Justin K. Smith
Photo: MONTGOMERY COUNTY JAIL

Defense counsel Michael Booher said in 37 years as an attorney he’s never had a defendant take off before closing arguments. Booher and co-counsel Adam Arnold said they were surprised their client didn’t return.

“There was no indication that Mr. Smith wasn’t going to be compliant,” Arnold said. “He’s been compliant throughout this entire process. We’ve been talking about this date for weeks and it obviously didn’t go according to plan after lunch today.”

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Smith, the former coach of the Southwest Soccer Club, was indicted on three counts of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, three counts of sexual battery by a coach or scout leader and four counts of sexual imposition. Prosecution did not go forward on two of the sexual imposition counts at trial.

Smith 41, testified in his own defense Wednesday morning and said he committed acts that line up with the misdemeanor counts but not the felonies.

“My testimony is that we had a physical, as embarrassing as it is to say, we had physical contact in nature,” Smith said. “Because it was in my home, there were people there, in proximity, we were never naked, never had our clothes off, it never escalated to that level.”

Smith also testified that his daughters were friends with the girl and that she visited his home. He also said it was usual for boys or girls he coached to call or email him.

Smith testified that the texting conversations between him and the alleged victim became more frequent and personal in late 2017 and that they did hug each other in his basement.

Prosecutors said Smith and the teen exchanged more than 17,000 texts in one month. Smith and his lawyers disputed that and said they’d only seen a couple dozen.

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