The 17-year-old youth charged with raping a 69-year-old man on the North Shore will be tried as an adult in Hamilton County Criminal Court.

On Thursday, Juvenile Court Judge Rob Philyaw decided to transfer suspect Diontae Smartt's case.

Smartt is charged with aggravated rape in connection with a late-September attack on a man who was running on West Mississippi Avenue, a common route for runners on the North Shore.

"These cases [of aggravated rape] are among the most serious I hear," Philyaw said. "This is a serious case, a tragic case."

Thursday was the second phase of Smartt's transfer hearing in Juvenile Court. In the previous hearing, the victim testified and the judge ordered Smartt be transferred to the Joe Johnson Mental Health Center for an evaluation.

The evaluation did not indicate any reason for the suspect to be committed for mental health reasons.

The judge said there was no doubt of probable cause, leaving Thursday's hearing to revolve around one question: If Smartt is found guilty, can the Juvenile Court system rehabilitate him before his 19th birthday?

Wearing an orange jumpsuit, feet and hands shackled, Smartt sat between his mother and his attorney, Jason Fisher. Smartt stared straight ahead throughout the hearing, not turning around. A few times, he whispered to his mom.

At the end of the hearing, Philyaw told the almost empty courtroom how Smartt showed emotion throughout the hearing, saying he wasn't sure if the boy's emotions were rooted in remorse or fear.

At the conclusion of the hearing,Philyaw determined that 18 to 19 months did not provide enough time for the juvenile court system to help Smartt, citing the boy's extensive school disciplinary record.

"Young man, this is not the end of you," Philyaw said, looking directly at Smartt. "You're 17 years old and have a lot of life ahead of you."

Philyaw set Smartt's bail at $10,000 with geographical limitations banning him from the North Shore area, but allowing him to return to Red Bank High School. If bond is made, Smartt will be required to wear a GPS monitoring device.

Smartt's case should be presented to a Hamilton County grand jury within the next two months. If convicted in Criminal Court, he could face 15 to 60 years in prison.

Contact staff writer Kendi Anderson at or 423-757-6592.