(844) 627-8267 | Info@NationalCyberSecurity
(844) 627-8267 | Info@NationalCyberSecurity

Former Spokesman-Review Editor Steve Smith accused of paying girls to provide him sexually explicit videos | #childpredator | #kidsaftey | #childsaftey

Former Spokesman-Review Editor Steve Smith had a “very large amount” of images depicting child sexual abuse in his possession and was actively downloading more when investigators searched his home Thursday afternoon, according to court documents filed Friday. 

Smith, 73, served as executive editor of The Spokesman-Review from 2002 to 2008 and taught journalism ethics at the University of Idaho for about a decade until 2020.

He was arrested by Washington State Patrol detectives Thursday on 10 counts of first-degree possession of depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct. Investigators indicated more charges are likely.

He made his first court appearance Friday afternoon with a public defender in a yellow Spokane County Jail jumpsuit. He was held on $25,000 bond by Spokane County Superior Commissioner John Stine. 

Homeland Security investigators were investigating children using social media to send sexually explicit photos of themselves on social media in exchange for money sent via CashApp, according to court documents. Smith became tied to the investigation through a CashApp account registered in his name.

In March, a federal search warrant pertaining to child pornography in the Western District of Kentucky helped investigators obtain information on two Instagram accounts used by the children, according to court documents.

The girls, ages 10, 11, and 14, sent images to an account with the handle @hermiesays. The victims shared approximately 30 sexually explicit videos with the account from April 12, 2022 through Jan. 6, 2023, according to court documents.

The same month the CashApp payments for sexually explicit content began, Smith petitioned Spokane courts to reduce his alimony as part of a divorce with an ex-wife finalized in 2010. In that April 1, 2022, filing, Smith said he could no longer afford the payments.

“Now he is retired, and his health care costs are increasing, and he cannot afford to continue to pay spousal support … ” the filing reads. The payments for sexually explicit content began three weeks later, according to investigators. 

In March, investigators received the children’s CashApp records and were able to link the @hermiesays account to a CashApp account belonging to Smith. The CashApp account included Smith’s name and address, along with an email address of hermiesays@gmail.com. 

The Instagram account, which remained online Friday afternoon, has no posts but follows thousands of accounts, most of which are pornographic in nature.

Investigators then linked the accounts’ use to two IP addresses linked to Smith’s Spokane home. 

After reviewing the chat conversations between @hermiesays and the children, investigators say in court documents it was clear Smith knew the girls’ ages while communicating with and purchasing sexually explicit videos and photos from them.

Investigators searched Smith’s home on Thursday.

When a detective asked Smith if he knew why they were there with a search warrant, Smith replied, “Yes, it’s probably from what I have been downloading,” according to court documents.

The detective then stopped Smith from saying anything further, turned on his body camera and read Smith his rights. 

Smith invoked his rights following the official reading. He declined a jail interview with The Spokesman-Review Thursday evening.

While searching Smith’s home, investigators found a laptop actively in the process of downloading a file containing child sexual abuse material, according to court documents. 

They also located an unlocked tablet with multiple active chat threads with people named “Kitty,” “femme fatale” and “Bella Bellissima.” 

It appeared Smith had been chatting with these people when officers knocked on his door to serve the search warrant, according to WSP. 

Investigators seized various electronic devices from Smith’s home and had not completed a full forensic review at the time of the court filing.

A preliminary review indicated a “very large amount” of sexually explicit images of children, according to court records. 

Smith’s wife, Carla Savalli, told investigators she had no knowledge of the illegal activity and didn’t have access to his devices. Savalli previously held various editor roles at The Spokesman-Review. She declined to comment on her husband’s arrest Thursday evening.

In 2007, with Smith at the helm, The Spokesman-Review published a months-long series about child neglect and abuse called “Our Kids: Our Business.” The newspaper partnered with other media and social service agencies as part of the project. The next year, Smith and Savalli accepted an award in Washington D.C. from Child Welfare League of America for the work, and the newspaper continued work on the project for several more years.

In 2005, the newspaper published an investigative report that led to the recall of then-Spokane Mayor Jim West over allegations that he used the trapping of public office to entice young men into sexual relationships while simultaneously working against gay rights.

The newspaper used a forensics expert to pose online as a gay Ferris High School student who flirted with West online. The newspaper’s methods were controversial and the subject of national news coverage. 

In a subsequent examination of the West reporting by the PBS program “Frontline,” Smith defended the paper’s work and was critical of West’s decision to meet with a 20-year-old man for sex.

“It just didn’t track for me that the mayor would be doing something so, frankly, stupid,” Smith said in that interview, which aired in November 2006.

Smith was also asked how he felt about the effect of the paper’s reporting on West’s career.

“I have more sympathy for the young men that I believe he sexually abused,” Smith said. “I have enormous sympathy for young gay men in our community who I believe were stalked and victimized by a sexual predator, whether or not they were of age.”

After leaving The Spokesman-Review, Smith served as a journalism clinical associate professor at the University of Idaho, specializing in teaching journalism ethics. He retired in 2020. 

The nonprofit news organization FāVS News, which has employed Smith as a columnist since 2020 and recently named him managing editor, announced Friday that he’d been suspended indefinitely following the arrest. 

“In light of recent events, FāVS News has suspended its relationship with Steve Smith as managing editor and columnist, pending further developments,” the organization wrote on Twitter. 

Reporter Kip Hill contributed to this story.

Source link


Click Here For The Original Source.

National Cyber Security