KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — The mother of one of the victims of convicted child rapist Joshua A. Smith is outraged by the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals’ decision to reduce the former Ramstein Air Base staff sergeant’s sentence, fearing that the ruling will give Smith the opportunity to hurt more children.
“I feel like he is a perfect con artist,” the woman said. “I feel like he will con his way out of prison with appeals and good behavior because that’s what he’s good at.”
Stars and Stripes is withholding the name of the mother in order to protect the identity of her child.
Calling the sentence “unduly severe” and noting mitigating factors that should have been taken into account when determining an appropriate punishment, the appellate court last month reduced Smith’s sentence from life without the possibility of parole to life, a decision that makes Smith, 30, eligible for parole in 10 years.
“I am very upset about the ruling and apparently there is no way to appeal it,” the girl’s mother wrote in an email from her current home in a military community in Germany.
She said the family was informed of the decision, but only after the fact.
What frightens her most is the possibility that Smith could get paroled before the age of 50, when “he will still be young enough to hurt other children” and perhaps even seek out his former victims, including her daughter, she said.
Her daughter, now 10, broke open the case in April of 2010 when, she told her parents that she had seen Smith’s penis while he was reading her a Bible story, and that he had taken naked pictures of her.
At a court-martial later that year at Ramstein, Smith was convicted of multiple counts of raping and molesting the 7-year-old and two other girls – ages 3 and 4 – while babysitting them at his house or theirs. One victim was a German and another had a father in the Air Force at the time.
His acts included instances of aggravated sexual contact, indecent liberties, and the manufacturing, possession, and viewing of child pornography. His crimes shocked the Kaiserslautern military community for their heinousness and for the way Smith duped his victims, lying about his qualifications on Ramstein’s online classified advertisements, befriending the parents and giving himself glowing recommendations while posing as a fake reference named Yvonne.
The military judge, Col. Dawn R. Elflein, ordered him to spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole, a sentence upheld by the Third Air Force commander.
In reducing that sentence, the appellate judges said in a written opinion that they were not “engaging in an act of clemency,” but rather fulfilling their duty under the Uniform Code of Military Justice to “maintain uniformity and even-handedness of court-martial sentencing decisions.”
The victim’s mother takes exception to the court’s reference to a post-trial submission by forensic psychologist Rex Frank, who determined that Smith’s risk of reoffending was “very low” compared to other sex offenders and that he had “excellent rehabilitative potential.”
Frank testified for the defense at Smith’s trial.
“Of course he is going to say that,” she said. “The problem is, they can never know if he is rehabilitated in prison because there is no temptation for him in prison. …”
The woman said she has not told her daughter about Smith’s sentence being reduced.
“My family went through a lot to put him away,” she said, noting her daughter’s bravery in coming forward and telling her parents and military investigators about what Smith did to her.
She said her daughter has been through some therapy and still struggles with the way she relates to people.
“She has to live with what happened to her for the rest of her life and try to overcome it all,” the woman said.
Smith should “have to pay for what he did to her and the others for the rest of his life. It’s not right.”