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Former Carter County teacher sentenced in aggravated statutory rape, solicitation of minor case

John Thompson • Apr 2, 2014 at 9:01 PM

ELIZABETHTON — Former Carter County elementary school teacher Kelly Smith, 31, was sentenced Wednesday to 90 days in jail, followed by 3 years probation on his convictions of one count of aggravated statutory rape and two count of solicitation of a minor.

Smith was convicted of having sexual relations with a 16-year-old girl during December 2012. The victim said she had been communicating with Smith via Facebook since she had been a 6th grader at Hampton Elementary School, where Smith was a teacher.

The second victim was a 13-year-old, who had been receiving explicit text messages from Smith on her cell phone. Smith also allegedly sent photos of his genitals to the girl’s phone.

The incidents were brought to the Carter County Sheriff’s Department’s attention when the mother of the second victim discovered the messages on her daughter’s phone.

The mother testified in court on Tuesday that the incident caused a rift between her and her daughter. She said it is healing but the girl still defends Smith.

Prior to sentencing, Smith addressed the mother’s comments on Wednesday morning.

He said he was disappointed to hear the girl still defended him. “What I did to her was indefensible...I am going to accept the justice I deserve. I hope she will never say another word in my defense.”

In pronouncing the sentence, Criminal Court Judge Robert Cupp was outspokenly critical of Smith’s actions and the state’s sentencing laws.

Cupp said Smith comes from a good background and was intelligent, obtaining a masters degree in education he will no longer be able to use. He asked how he could have such advantages and do what he did.

“The public needs to understand he had undone himself. He has brought unbelievable shame to himself. He went from a well respected teacher to one whose picture is on the front page of the local newspaper.” The judge said the question is what the court should do.

“The state has no truth in sentencing,” Cupp said. The maximum sentence under state law for the crimes Smith is convicted of is 2 years, Cupp said. Even worse, the state law classifies Smith as standard offender, who would only have to serve 30 percent of his sentence. Cupp said that means Smith would only have to serve 7.2 months in prison and could even get into a program where he could get credit for two days for every day served, halving the 7.2 months. “It absolutely stinks,” Cupp said of the sentencing criteria.

Cupp said he could easily give Smith the maximum sentence and wash his hands of the case, but he preferred to keep him in the purview of his court, even though the judge will be retiring in four months.

Instead of turning him over to the state prisons, Cupp ordered that Smith spend the 90 days in jail. The first 30 will be straight jail time. He will then be on work release for the remaining 60 days. He will then be on probation with the Board of Probation and Parole for the next three years. Cupp ordered Smith to return to court on July 14 on a status check and whether he should be placed in a treatment program.

Cupp said he realized Smith had a problem with alcohol, but the judge said “there is a way to beat alcohol. You can beat it all by yourself. Just don’t drink.”

Cupp also ordered Smith to register as a sex offender.

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