Retired Miami-Dade County priest arrested on sex assault charges

Associated Press/June 11, 2004

Miami -- Miami-Dade County prosecutors charged a retired Catholic priest with fondling a 12-year-old boy who was visiting his ailing grandmother at a nursing home in 2001.

The Rev. Trevor Smith, who served in the Archdiocese of Miami for 35 years, is the first clergyman to be arrested on sex-abuse offenses here. He has consistently denied the allegations.

Smith, 67, surrendered at the county jail and was charged with two counts of lewd and lascivious assault on a minor before he was released on $75,000 bail. He faces penalties of up to 30 years in jail if convicted, though sentencing guidelines recommend between two and three years for each count.

The charges come less than nine months after the archdiocese settled a 2002 lawsuit with the alleged victim and his mother for $500,000, while admitting no wrongdoing. It was the largest settlement paid by the archdiocese, which has been hit with about 35 lawsuits alleging sexual misconduct by clergy.

The alleged incident is the only complaint against Smith, who retired in 2002 after working at several South Florida parishes and nursing homes, according to court records.

Smith was the chaplain at the Villa Maria Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in North Miami when he allegedly invited the boy into his living quarters, and showed him a picture book of naked children.

The priest forced the boy to touch him, and fondled the boy, while telling him it was "OK for two guys to touch each other," according to North Miami police.

Neither Smith's criminal attorney, David Raben, nor archdiocese officials returned calls for comment from the Miami Herald on Wednesday evening.

The charges filed Wednesday stemmed from a state attorney's office investigation into clergy abuse, which started in 2002. The investigation resulted in only Smith's arrest.

State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said statutes of limitations prevented prosecutors from pursuing charges in other cases, such as those in which alleged victims reported abuse that occurred decades earlier.

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