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A man who pleaded guilty in July to sexually exploiting a minor who resided outside the country was sentenced to prison on Thursday.

Nicholas Larry Smith, 36, was sentenced to an indeterminate term of 1-15 years in the Utah State Prison. Judge Brian Cannell said Smith avoided consecutive sentences due to personal efforts made toward treatment and showing some level of remorse.

For Cannell, it appeared Smith was “getting a glimpse” that on the other side of a computer screen there are real people and real harm done.

Defense attorney Raymond Malouf argued in favor of a probationary sentence for his client, stating Smith had no criminal history, was not a risk to the community and had been on supervision for years with no new offenses.

Malouf said medical issues including a traumatic brain injury and a stroke likely contributed to his client’s behavior. However, Malouf said he was “very impressed” with Smith’s improvement through treatment and “greatly respected” Smith for life changes made.

“He is not that person now,” Malouf told the court.

Smith tearfully apologized for his behavior.

“I am ashamed,” Smith said. “I’ve messed up and I’ve made horrible mistakes.”

Smith spoke to his own childhood trauma and addiction issues that lead to lost time with his family. He also told the court of vascular dementia that had hampered his memory of the incidents. Smith said he wanted to take responsibility and would do whatever was required to gain the trust of the court and the community.

A family member of Smith’s also addressed the court and said she was very proud of Smith’s progress in treatment and willingness to help those in need.

However, Cache County prosecutor Dane Murray told the court that there were “significant issues” with statements Smith made in psycho-sexual evaluation; Murray said Smith didn’t admit to crimes committed and “blamed the victim.”

According to Murray, Smith lied about knowing the minor victim’s true age and exploited the victim, who lives in the United Kingdom, for six years online.

For Murray, Smith’s behavior was not impulsive, but planned. Murray said Smith groomed the victim, formed a “BDSM relationship” online and had her perform sex acts on command. Murray said Smith’s “disgusting” behavior was as close to in-person abuse as one can get over the internet.

Murray played to the court an audio recording of the victim’s impact statement.

“It’s really hard,” the victim said. “Every week is really hard.”

The victim described being prescribed “loads of medication” for depression, anxiety and other medical issues as well as struggles with “basic things” like bathing and driving a vehicle.

“I have the strongest urge to just crash it,” she said.

The victim spoke of being surprised about how much the incident had affected her and her family.

“He knew what he was doing,” she said, explaining she had been taken advantage of while in a vulnerable place. “He used that to sink his teeth in and get a hold of me.”

Cannell said nothing in Smith’s medical history justified his behavior, and Smith could receive further sex offender treatment in prison. After imposing the sentence, Cannell lauded the victim and hoped she and her family could “find joy and healing.”

Smith was initially charged in 2017, and again in a separate but related case in 2018, but both cases were ultimately dismissed. Charges were refiled against Smith in 2019 with allegations dating back to 2012.

Smith pleaded guilty to five second-degree felonies and three class-A misdemeanors in July: one count of enticing a minor by internet or text, four counts of sexual exploitation of a minor and three misdemeanor counts of distribution of pornography.

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