An Effingham County jury acquitted a man charged with a handful of sex crimes in a two-day trial that concluded on Friday.
In July 2021, the Rincon Police Department sought warrants for George Andrew Smith for incidents which allegedly occurred with his then-stepdaughter between February 1, 2016 and February 1, 2018.
According to the warrants, Smith:
- Committed acts of Child Molestation “two to three times per week over a two year span” against the same alleged victim
- Committed an act of Sodomy against the alleged victim between 2/1/2016 and 2/1/2018
- Committed an act of Aggravated Sodomy against the alleged victim between 2/1/2016 and 2/1/2018
- Committed an act of Rape against the alleged victim between 2/1/2016 and 2/1/2018
- Committed an act of Child Molestation against the victim between 2/1/2016 and 2/1/2018
Smith was subsequently arrested on July 13, 2021 and booked into the Effingham County Jail. Represented by the Public Defender’s Office, Smith sought bond in August 2021, which was denied at a hearing in October 2021. Smith remained behind bars awaiting trial.
A grand jury indicted Smith on charges of Rape, Aggravated Sodomy, Sodomy, Child Molestation (two counts), and Aggravated Child Molestation in September 2021. Collectively, Smith faced a sentence of Life in Prison, if convicted. Additionally, the state filed motions of intent to seek recidivist treatment, meaning, if convicted, Smith would face Life in Prison without the possibility of parole.
Smith’s Prior Criminal History
Court records show that Assistant District Attorney Matt Breedon sought to include prior history of bad acts by Smith at trial.
From a court filing submitted by Breedon:
“The prosecutorial need here is acute. The State’s evidence will consist almost entirely of testimony from the victim, who did not disclose until questioned by adults. Some of the disclosures would be considered delayed disclosures to one extent or another. There is no physical evidence. Given the defendant’s age and the nature of the charges, a jury might reasonably wonder, “well, has he ever done anything like this before? Does one really reach fifty-some years of age old and only then start molesting children?”
(Note: According to public records, Smith is 46-years-old.)
Breedon’s motion concluded that the court must allow the evidence of prior acts, which he cited as Child Molestation, to be brought up at trial.
According to public records available in the Effingham County Superior Court Clerk’s Office, Smith entered a negotiated plea in 1996 to charges of Statutory Rape, which is an act with a person who is not old enough to consent. In Georgia, the age of consent is 16. He also entered a negotiated plea to a charge of Child Molestation.
Additionally, 2008 court records from Effingham County indicate Smith was charged with failing to register as a sex offender for the offense of Statutory Rape, not Child Molestation. Smith was 19 at the age of conviction for the offense, meaning he was likely between the ages of 17 and 19 at the time of the offenses, to which he later pled guilty. As part of the 1996 sentence, Smith was also prohibited from cohabitating in a house with a minor child.
However, in 2014, Smith and his then-girlfriend petitioned the court for a modification of sentencing to allow Smith to reside with the woman and her minor children. Smith had spent 60 days in the Effingham County Jail for previously visiting her house when her children were present at a time when his probation officer visited the residence. Upon the request submitted with signed affidavits, Judge F. Gates Peed signed the order granting the modification.
The defense argued that the acts from 1996 convictions should not be permitted at trial because they would ‘be unfairly prejudicial, confuse the issues, and mislead the jury.’
From the defense’s motion:
Ultimately, Superior Court Judge F. Gates Peed subsequently ruled that the prior convictions would be admissible at trial.
But it seems the information, as presented by the state, along with the evidence submitted, had minimal impact on the jury.
The case was tried this week by Assistant District Attorney Matt Breedon before Superior Court Judge F. Gates Peed. After a day and a half of trial, an Effingham County jury deliberated for 50 minutes and returned a ‘Not Guilty’ verdict on all five counts. Smith was released from jail after 584 days behind bars.
Under the reign of District Attorney Daphne Totten, a number of individuals have been held without bond while awaiting trial. When considering George Smith, a collective 8,482 days of jail time have been served by individuals who were ultimately acquitted by a judge, a jury of their peers, or a No Bill of Indictment by a grand jury. That’s the equivalent of 23.24 years.
This is the third trial for which the District Attorney’s Office received ‘Not Guilty’ verdicts this week alone. The two others, both in Bulloch County, included Aggravated Child Molestation charges and charges of Entering Auto stemming from a crash with a deer.