Justin K. Smith was sentenced Thursday to 12 years in prison for sexual battery against a 14-year-old girl who was on his soccer team.
Photo: MARK GOKAVI/Staff
Photo: MARK GOKAVI/Staff

Soccer coach sentenced on sex charges: ‘I allowed too many boundaries to be crossed’

The fugitive soccer coach who fled to Florida before his conviction on sex offenses against a minor was arraigned Thursday on 41 new charges, including child pornography. He was also sentenced in his original case.

Justin K. Smith, 42, of Germantown, was sentenced to 12 years in prison for eight counts related to his sexual relationship with a 14-year-old girl on his soccer team he had known for years.

The sentence handed down by Montgomery County Common Pleas Court Judge Erik Blaine was longer than other recent similar cases involving sex crimes against children by coaches or teachers.

RELATED: Smith indicted on 41 new counts, including child porn

“It’s hard to compare child abusers. They’re all despicable — all of the actions are terrible,” said Montgomery County assistant prosecutor Dylan Smearcheck, who advocated for the maximum 15 years.

“In this case, it was particularly egregious that Mr. Smith had the opportunity to walk away without charges — given the (victim’s) parents’ trust in him — and he chose to act as a predator and further his relationship with the victim.”

In a statement to the court, the victim’s mother said after her daughter’s relationship with Smith was discovered, she and her husband asked him to stop all contact with her and step down from any coaching role in exchange for not telling law enforcement.

RELATED: Smith arrested in Florida

The victim’s mother said she later found a phone in her daughter’s possession that had come from Smith via his daughter. She said police were then notified and that Smith tried to get a second phone to the victim.

“We never thought a wolf in sheep’s clothing would be able to disguise himself as a friend and coach and successfully destroy what my husband and I are most proud of in this world — that being the dynamic that is our family,” the mother said, calling Smith “a monster lying in wait” and that the situation “will harm our daughter for the rest of her life.”

Smith asked Blaine for mercy and apologized to the victim and the victim’s parents who walked out of the courtroom during his statement.

RELATED: Soccer coach who flees sex assault trial subject of nationwide search

“I am the lone person who let my feelings get out of control, allowed lines to get blurred and allowed too many boundaries to be crossed,” Smith said, adding that his actions forced the girl to testify during the bench trial. “I am so sorry and so regretful for that.”

Smith and his attorney both said the defendant is not the “monster” portrayed by the media while attorney Adam Arnold said Smith had been “smeared” by media covering the case and Smith’s disappearance.

Blaine said Smith “eviscerated” the trust he had in his community.

In a sentencing memorandum in which he advocated for community control up to two years in prison, Arnold wrote that Smith was a project manager for Montgomery County Disability Services.

RELATED: Former soccer coach who fled trial found guilty of sex crimes involving 14-year-old girl

“Mr. Smith has a passion for community and sport and founded the Southwest Soccer Club in 2010,” Arnold wrote. “Even with the ramifications of this case, Mr. Smith is still well-supported in the community by friends and family which is clear from the (20 or so) letters provided to the court in his support.”

Arnold included a list of nine Southwest Ohio cases with similar fact patterns and charges where sentences ranged from probation to five years in prison and no consecutive sentences.

In a sentencing memo, prosecutors wrote that the victim saw Smith as an idol and a friend of her mother.

RELATED: Four cases raise electronic monitoring concerns before accused sex offender flees trial

“In any other setting, (Smith) would not have had the level of authority over (the victim) that he did, and he certainly would not have held a romantic or sexual allure in her young eyes,” prosecutors wrote.

“He groomed her to see him as more than a coach. Bit-by-bit he made sure their relationship evolved from that of coach-player, to one that would forever alter her young life.”

Arnold sought — and failed — to have Ohio’s Supreme Court disqualify Blaine from sentencing Smith.

RELATED: Soccer coach accused on inappropriate relationship with 14-year-old girl goes on trial

In the denial of the affidavit of disqualification, the court said Arnold said Blaine used the case “for political gain and publicity.”

Arnold argued that Blaine’s refusal to continue the sentencing — set one day before the judge’s last day in office — means Blaine “intends to render as harsh a sentence as possible in order to raise his political profile.”

Smith testified in his own defense Oct. 31 then failed to return from a lunch break. Smith cut off his ankle monitor and fled first to Kentucky and was arrested Dec. 14 in Florida after a nationwide search. Smith was turned in by a woman he met via an online dating app.

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