AP NEWS

Former deputy sentenced to 12 years for sexual assault of a child in Liberty County

February 25, 2019

A former Harris County deputy finds himself on the wrong-side of the law after his probation was revoked in the 253rd District Court in Liberty on Friday. He could spend the next 12 years in a Texas prison.

Deshon Jay Foster-Smith, who at one time lived in the Hardin area, is an eight-year veteran with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office and was assigned to the jail.

“Foster-Smith violated the honor of his badge and his pulpit and will spend at least six years in prison as a result,” District Attorney Logan Pickett said in a statement.

In 2011, Foster-Smith was working as a HCSO deputy and minister. He offered to help a 14-years-old girl from his church purchase school clothes and had previously counseled the child regarding issues in her life, law enforcement officials said.

The girl attended Hardin Junior High School.

Prosecutors say he crossed the line when he requested her to repay his supposed generosity with an illicit act. She reluctantly complied.

“Not knowing what to do, she told no one,” Pickett said.

Pickett said the act was eventually exposed when family members, checking the young girl’s phone, found suspicious text message conversations that she was having with Foster-Smith and they confronted her.

Law enforcement was contacted and a Bridgehaven forensic interview was conducted.

“The evidence gathered in the investigation was presented to a Liberty County Grand Jury, who indicted Foster-Smith,” the statement read.

After discussions with the victim and her family, a plea deal was struck placing the defendant on deferred adjudication probation.

“Though probation is never the preferred manner of disposing of a case involving the abuse of a child,” Pickett said, “it does have advantages.”

He explained a plea bargain provides a certain, known result and avoids a jury trial where the outcome is far from given.

“Should a defendant be found not guilty at a jury trial, he or she can never be tried for that offense again. Second, a plea bargain allows the child to avoid the rigors of cross-examination by a skilled defense attorney and the fear of being disbelieved by a jury who is sworn to give the defendant the presumption of innocence,” he said.

Lastly, should the defendant violate the terms and conditions of deferred probation, they are subject to the entire range of punishment, are not entitled to a jury, and the standard of proof for revocation is a preponderance of the evidence instead of beyond a reasonable doubt.

“Preponderance of the evidence can be described as ‘more likely than not,’ whereas beyond a reasonable doubt is the highest burden in law and the standard required in all jury trials,” Pickett said. “In addition, the defendant is required to enter a plea of guilty to receive deferred adjudication to admit to the crime charged, just as Foster-Smith admitted here.”

Sex offender probationers are required to comply with the strictest of terms available, he said.

Foster-Smith had numerous conditions to comply with, including being required to attend weekly sex-offender counseling, have no contact with any minor, pay fines and fees, have no cable television without prior approval, and have all electronic devices, cars, and residences subject to search at any time, Pickett said.

Lacy Teran, the Probation Officer assigned to monitor Foster-Smith, discovered several violations and notified Pickett. Pickett then filed a motion to revoke Foster-Smith’s probation and a hearing was held before Judge Chap Cain.

The DA, thru Teran and other witnesses, said Foster-Smith failed to attend sex-offender counseling, had access to unapproved cable television, and had contact with minors, all in violation of the terms and conditions ordered by Cain.

Though no new offense was committed, after hearing the victim recount that life-altering day with the defendant, Cain revoked his probation and sentenced Foster-Smith to 12 years in the Texas Department of Corrections out of a possible 20-year sentence.

The DA described the tight reins held on a defendant on probation.

“A sex offender granted probation has no margin for error. They are watched more closely than other probationers by their Probation Officers, the District Attorney’s Office, and Judges Cain and Mark Morefield,” he said.

“When they violate the terms ordered by the judges, we move swiftly and decisively to present these allegations to the court,” he said.

dtaylor@hcnonline.com