MOUNT VERNON — Michael A. Smith, assistant dean of men at the Mount Vernon Academy, is in the Knox County Jail facing charges of pandering obscenity involving a minor and pandering sexually oriented material involving a minor. Both are second-degree felony charges.
Knox County Prosecutor John Thatcher said Smith’s personal computer(s) allegedly had 24 files — that is, photos and/or videos — containing child pornography. A forensic analysis of the computer(s) should provide further information, Thatcher said.
The pandering obscenity charge, Thatcher said, alleges Smith knowingly reproduced obscene material with a minor as one of the participants.
“The second charge,” Thatcher said, “alleges that he knowingly reproduced any material that shows a minor participating or engaging in sexual activity.”
The allegedly illegal files were discovered by the Ohio Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, as the files apparently had been downloaded from the Internet, Thatcher said.
A preliminary hearing on the charges has been scheduled for Friday.
If convicted, Smith will serve 2 to 8 years on each count.
Dan Kittle, principal of Mount Vernon Academy, did not return calls for comment as of press time. However, the News acquired a letter sent out to pastors, parents and staff by the academy, from the Knox County Sheriff’s Office.
According to Kittle’s letter, the school was notified on Feb. 6, that the school’s IP address was marked as having transmitted illegal materials.
“MVA took immediate action to assist law enforcement in identifying any network or computer assets that may have been used to send or receive such material,” letter stated. Although the initial investigation of the school’s hardware was inconclusive, Kittle said that outcome was “unacceptable.”
“Student safety and network security demanded further investigation,” Kittle said.
Smith was interviewed by law enforcement and Kittle on March 13. After which, “I revoked the volunteer service agreement between MVA and Michael Smith, paid him for his last reimbursement of expenses, collected his keys and facilitated his departure from campus,” Kittle said.
“My heart aches over the loss of this talented young man as a member of our team at MVA,” Kittle said. “He remains in my prayers and I ask that you keep him in yours. As this story unfolds I encourage you to remember your own fallibility and potential for failure and extend a gift of grace to Michael.”
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