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Judge uphold plea deal in hockey player’s sex video case

MOORHEAD, Minn. -- A Clay County judge has accepted the terms of a child pornography sentence for a second former junior hockey player that spares him from registering as a sex offender.

930549+062514.N.FF_.HOCKEYSEXTAPE Smith.jpg
Brandon Nicholas Smith

MOORHEAD, Minn. -- A Clay County judge has accepted the terms of a child pornography sentence for a second former junior hockey player that spares him from registering as a sex offender.

Brandon Nicholas Smith, of Castaic, Calif., pleaded guilty in November to accusations he and another then-player for the Lincoln (Neb.) Stars took images of themselves having sex with a 15-year-old girl at a hotel in Moorhead in February 2014 when they were still in their teenage years following a game against the Fargo Force, then sent it on to others, including other hockey players. Both teams are in the United States Hockey League.

Smith, 21, and Thomas Ryan Carey, 20, of Moorhead, pleaded guilty to three counts of creating, possessing and distributing child pornography, all felonies.

The sentence pronounced Friday by Judge Michael Fritz keeps Smith off the sex offender registry and wipes his record of the conviction if he successfully completes its terms.

Fritz upheld Carey's plea deal Monday under similar terms.

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Smith addressed the court at sentencing, telling the judge he accepted responsibility for his actions in the case.

"Just like Thomas Carey, I would appreciate nothing more than to move on with the rest of my life," he said. "And I can assure you nothing like this will ever happen again."

Fritz withheld acceptance of the plea deal hammered out between both sides in the case pending the results of a presentence investigation.

At a sentencing hearing Thursday, Clay County prosecutor Pam Harris said investigators agreed the plea deal that sentenced Smith to 45 days in jail and up to 10 years of probation was appropriate. It also found that Smith, like Carey, needed at least eight to 10 sessions of sex offender counseling, Harris said.

Harris said the victim in the case had come forward since Carey's sentencing Monday intending to provide a victim impact statement, but changed her mind when she learned media and defense would be present at the hearing, fearing she would suffer further public backlash.

In an interview after the hearing, Harris called the public reaction against the victim "disheartening."

"It was appalling and frankly sad," said Harris. "I thought we had come a little bit farther." She said she also found the defense's characterization of the victim disturbing.

The case was one of the most contentious in recent memory in Clay County. Defense attorneys sought to paint the girl as the predator who approached the men via nude images on social media and was on a mission to have sex with a member of each team in the USHL. Defense attorneys pointed out that since the February hotel room incident, the victim had been banned from the Scheels Arena in Fargo because her behavior had been deemed too distracting for players.

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The case was marked by heated commentary by attorneys both in and out of the courtroom and by the public, leading Fritz to issue a gag order in November 2014 for the duration of the case.

Smith, who was given credit for serving 30 days behind bars, and his attorney both declined comment. Minnesota offenders typically serve about two-thirds of their sentence.

Related Topics: USHLHOCKEY
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