A former special education teacher at Central High School here was sentenced Wednesday to seven and a half years in federal prison for possession of child pornography.
As he stood before the bench in U.S. District Court in downtown Macon, Robert Anthony Smith, who had pleaded guilty, asked Judge Marc T. Treadwell for mercy and for the court to forgive him.
“I was in a dark place in my life,” said Smith, who faced up to nine years in prison. “I was drinking heavily. I am not blaming my problems with alcohol for my actions. It was just a contributing factor.”
Smith, 44, has ties to Houston County and the Columbus area. He was arrested in Macon in late 2017 after authorities searched his personal computer and found at least 11 pornographic videos that included children having sex with other children and men.
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Investigators in Georgia were alerted in August 2017 about people uploading photographs and videos of sexually-exploited children to an online site named “Chatstep.”
Authorities here then seized numerous computers at Smith’s house and found more than 450 images and 19 videos of minors “being sexually exploited,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Georgia said in a statement announcing Smith’s sentencing on Wednesday. The images on Smith’s computers included some of “infants and toddlers being sexually abused,” the statement said.
No schoolchildren Smith taught or was in contact with were in the videos, officials said. At least half a dozen of the children in the images — strangers to Smith who are thought to live in other states — have been identified. Smith will likely later be ordered to pay them $1,500 each in restitution.
In court on Wednesday morning, the dark-haired, portly Smith, dressed in an orange jailhouse jumpsuit, told the judge, “I accept full responsibility.”
Smith, reading from a statement, apologized and then spoke of an injury his father suffered since his arrest and then broke down in sobs.
“I can’t finish,” Smith said.
His lawyer, Charles E. Cox Jr., read the rest of Smith’s prepared remarks.
Cox mentioned how Smith, in the year since being jailed, noted helping fellow inmates with writing and other educational endeavors.
“One of the things that I have taken most pride in is my education,” Cox said, reading from Smith’s statement. “At the University of Georgia, the three pillars stand for wisdom, justice and moderation. I realize that my last pillar must be replaced with abstinence — abstinence in all things that led me to this place. ... I’m ashamed of my actions.”
Treadwell, before sentencing Smith, said, “I think, Mr. Smith, that sometimes there is a perception these are victimless crimes. ... But there are victims, and the consequences to the victims are horrific.”