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BOONEVILLE -- A former Booneville teacher and coach was sentenced Friday to four years in prison on a charge that he hid his cellphone in a girls bathroom at Booneville High School and secretly recorded teenage girls changing clothes.

Mark Aaron Smith, 40, pleaded guilty in Logan County Circuit Court to one count of video voyeurism and one count of possessing matter depicting sexually explicit conduct involving a child, both felonies.

Based on a plea agreement between Smith and the state, Circuit Judge Jerry Don Ramey sentenced Smith to 10 years in prison with six years suspended. Ramey also fined Smith $1,500 and ordered him to pay various court and state fees, and to register as a sex offender.

As part of the plea agreement, Ramey also barred Smith from Booneville school grounds, from Booneville school sporting events, and from having contact with the families and students involved in the video voyeurism case.

Wearing a blue polo shirt and khaki pants, the tall, slim, balding and bearded Smith stood beside his attorney, Neva Witt of Ozark, as Ramey reviewed with Smith his rights and the plea agreement.

After sentencing him, Ramey ordered Smith taken into custody. Smith was handcuffed and seated with other jail inmates at one side of the courtroom reserved for prisoners.

Smith, who was in his fourth year as a teacher and coach at Booneville High School, resigned Sept. 1 last year.

Smith was charged in September with 11 counts of video voyeurism. Ten of the charges were dismissed as part of the plea agreement. He had been scheduled to go on trial before a jury Friday.

Deputy prosecutor Tyler Barham said Friday that the possession of sexually explicit materials charge, which was added in April, involved images found on Smith's cellphone that were separate from those involved in the video voyeurism charges.

An arrest warrant affidavit filed with the charges last year said evidence showed that Smith placed a cellphone in a soap dispenser in a girls bathroom in the high school field house Aug. 28. It recorded 11 girls ages 13-17 changing clothes.

A statement released at the time by Superintendent John Parrish said parents of the students affected were notified, and all female students in grades seven through 12 were given general information about the video recording and were offered counseling.

A cellphone that Smith admitted belonged to him was found recording in the soap dispenser on the afternoon of Aug. 30, according to the affidavit. Parrish questioned Smith about the cellphone, and Smith admitted that the phone was his but denied knowing how it got into the girls bathroom.

After Smith provided the code to unlock the phone, the affidavit said, the video "clearly" showed Smith placing the phone and retrieving it. On the day the phone was found, Smith is seen placing the phone in the girls bathroom, and the person who found it is shown on video removing the phone from the soap dispenser.

Smith also downloaded the video from his cellphone onto his classroom computer, the affidavit said.

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State Desk on 08/18/2018

Print Headline: Ex-coach admits to phone in restroom

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