AUSTIN, March 30 -- A former high-ranking Boy Scouts of America official pleaded guilty Wednesday to receiving and distributing child pornography over the Internet in a case that authorities said was connected to a German-based trafficking ring.
The charge, filed by the U.S. attorney's office for the Northern District of Texas, grew out of a 2003 investigation into child pornography in Duesseldorf, according to court documents. U.S. authorities traced 520 images of child pornography, including video clips, to the home computers of Douglas Sovereign Smith Jr., former national program director of the Boy Scouts.
Douglas Smith Jr.
Smith also was chairman of its Youth Protection Task Force, created in the 1990s to formulate procedures the Boy Scouts use in training employees, volunteers and parents on how to spot and protect against child abuse.
Smith, 61, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Fort Worth to one count of receipt and distribution of child pornography. He could face a federal prison term of five to 20 years, a $250,000 fine and a lifetime of supervised release. Sentencing was set for July 12, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office said.
Messages left at Smith's home and with his attorney, Jack Strickland of Fort Worth, were not returned. Strickland told the Associated Press on Tuesday that Smith was "not taking this well . . . This is a good man, and I would hate to see the entirety of his life and the good things he's done defined by one incident."
Smith, of Colleyville, was employed for 39 years by the Boy Scouts, based in Irving, a suburb west of Dallas. As national program director, he oversaw scout programs sponsored by churches and schools nationwide, organization spokesman Gregg Shields said. His job did not involve leading scout troops. However, Shields confirmed Smith accompanied five Boy Scouts to Washington in 1999 when they were honored with Congressional Gold Medals. But Shields said there was no record of any complaints against Smith while he was employed.
Two or three years ago, Smith assumed the chairmanship of the Boy Scouts Youth Protection Task Force, composed of staff members and experts in the field of child abuse prevention, such as psychologists.
"We're shocked and disappointed," Shields said. "He'd been a good employee for all those years."
The Boy Scouts learned of the investigation in February from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. Shields said Smith was immediately put on administrative leave. He retired March 1.
The U.S investigation was conducted under Operation Predator, an initiative of the Department of Homeland Security "to protect young people from alien smugglers, human traffickers, child pornographers and other predatory criminals," according to the agency's Web site. It was coordinated through the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Cyber Crimes Center in Alexandria.
Court documents unsealed Wednesday said that in November 2003, German police executed a search warrant on the Duesseldorf residence of a man suspected of trafficking in child pornography. Forensic analysis of the man's computers disclosed images of child pornography embedded in multiple e-mails received by him and sent to other e-mail addresses in the United States. German police, posing as the arrested man, received numerous e-mails from the United States containing child pornography.
That information was forwarded to Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, who determined that one of the e-mail addresses that had received the pornographic images was registered to Smith.
An analysis of computers and discs from Smith's house revealed 520 images, including video clips of males younger than 18 engaged in sexually explicit conduct and sexually explicit depictions of pre-pubescent males younger than 12.
Scouts spokesman Shields said authorities informed the organization that the images in Smith's possession "did not include Boy Scouts" and that his "actions were not conducted on Boy Scout property."