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Ex-Boy Scout official pleads guilty to child porn charge

Prosecutor says there's no evidence of molestation

Douglas S. Smith Jr., at court Wednesday, faces sentencing in July.
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Douglas S. Smith Jr. pleads guilty to child pornography.
• Stipulation of Facts U.S. v. Smith (FindLaw)external link
• Criminal information:  U.S. v. Douglas Smith Jr.  (FindLaw)external link
Boy Scouts

FORT WORTH, Texas (CNN) -- A former top official of the Boy Scouts of America pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of receiving and distributing child pornography, including pictures of boys younger than 12.

Douglas S. Smith Jr., 61, entered the plea before a federal judge in Fort Worth, acknowledging he "knowingly received or distributed an image of child pornography."

Smith didn't speak during the 45-minute hearing, other than an occasional "yes, sir" or "no, sir" when the judge asked him questions.

As part of the plea, he will face a minimum of five years in prison and a possible maximum sentence of no more than 20 years. He also could be fined up to $250,000.

A sentencing date was set for July 12. Smith will be free on bond until then.

Bret Helmer, an assistant U.S. attorney, said there was no evidence Smith molested any children. He said Smith has been contrite and wants "to get this behind him."

"Mr. Smith has been forthright," Helmer said. "He is willing to accept responsibility as he did today."

Nearly 40-year Scout career

Smith retired from the Boy Scouts in February following a 39-year career with the youth organization -- which is based in suburban Dallas. He had been placed on administrative leave when the group learned he was under criminal investigation, and he stepped down soon afterward, Boy Scouts of America spokesman Greg Shields said before the plea deal.

"As a professional Scouter, he was in more administrative positions -- most recently [director of programming] -- and not in direct contact with the youth," Shields said.

Shields said the Boy Scouts organization is "shocked and dismayed" by Smith's arrest, but the group has cooperated with investigators in the case.

"We surrendered his work computer to authorities," he said.

According to the plea agreement, investigators searched Smith's home in Colleyville on February 22 and seized his computer and computer discs, discovering 520 images of child pornography, including video clips.

"The child pornography depicted males under the age of 18 engaged in sexually explicit conduct," the agreement said. "Among these pornographic images were sexually explicit depictions of actual and known prepubescent males under the age of 12 years."

According to the plea, Smith, a former Eagle Scout, received the images via the Internet and stored them on his computer, on computer discs and in his AOL e-mail account before distributing "the images to others over the Internet."

A search of his work computer at the headquarters of Boy Scouts of America yielded no images. Smith surrendered to authorities Friday and was allowed to be released without bond, according to court records.

Prosecutor: Case a warning to others

Helmer said it appeared Smith had been involved with downloading and distributing child pornographic pictures for several years. He said Wednesday's plea was a warning to others.

"We will find you," Helmer said.

According to the plea, the investigation began in Germany in November 2003 when authorities there executed a search warrant on a man suspected of trafficking in child pornography over the Internet. As part of that investigation, authorities found that Smith had received images of child pornography from the man.

The Smith investigation is part of a U.S. probe known as Operation Predator, which began in 1997. It has resulted in more than 5,300 arrests worldwide since 2003, said Manny Van Pelt, a spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which oversees the investigation.

Those charged in previous cases have included doctors, police officers, teachers, camp counselors and coaches, he said.

CNN's Stacia Deshishku and Ed Lavandera contributed to this report.

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