The director of a North Georgia theater company pleaded guilty Friday to five counts of aggravated statutory rape.
Joshua Conrad Smith, 32 and founder of the Closed Door Entertainment company, was arrested in December 2018 for allegedly intentionally engaging in sexual contact with two underage girls in his apartment and at a theater, both of which were in Hamilton County, in 2017.
On Friday, Smith, accompanied by his attorney, Lee Davis, stood before Judge Tom Greenholtz and agreed to the stipulations of the guilty plea.
He is to serve six years on supervised probation with special sex offender conditions, meaning he cannot have any contact with the victims or have any unsupervised contact with minors. Once he finishes the six-year sentence, he will be listed on the Tennessee sex offender registry for 10 years.
If he violates the conditions of his probation, commits a new crime or fails to report to his probation officer, he will be required to spend the rest of his sentence behind bars.
By pleading guilty to the felonies, he gave up several civil rights, including the right to vote, sit on a jury, hold public office and use or possess a firearm.
Both of the victims had been members of Smith's theater troupe, prosecutors said.
At Friday's hearing, one of the victims read an impact statement.
"I know that you watched me grow up," she read, addressing Smith who sat behind her, his head bowed. "You watched as I got taller and smarter. You watched me when I was in middle school. You watched, and you picked me to hurt."
Why did he pick her, she wondered aloud.
"Did you pick me because I was the loneliest, the easiest to manipulate?" she asked. "Sometimes I wonder if you feel bad about what you did, or if you even think you did anything bad. Did you ever feel bad? Did you feel remorse when I told you I loved you and you laughed at me?
It hasn't been fair, she said.
"I stay up every night crying because I still can't get the image of you over me out of my mind almost three years later," she said. "It isn't fair that I can't focus on going to college like a normal kid. That instead, I have to be back here, facing my demons that have chased me through the entirety of my adolescence."
Another woman, who had been sitting in the back of the courtroom, stood in support of the victims and their families.
"I'm not wanting to take away from any of the families who are here, but — I wouldn't miss this day for the world," she said. "I'm sorry this happened to you all because it happened to me many years ago. So I just wanted to say that I'm here to support you."
One of the victim's family members also stood up.
"We trusted you, J.C. [Smith], and you know what you did to our family," he said. "We want to make sure — he can't hurt anybody else like this. And if her words don't mean something to everybody in this room, we have let our children down."
"I forgave you a long time ago," one of the victims said. "But I don't know if I can say the same for all of the other girls you hurt. What I do know for sure is that it ends with me."
Victim impact statement
I know that you watched me grow up. You watched as I got taller and smarter. You watched me when I was in middle school. You watched, and you picked me to hurt.
I always wondered why you picked me. I certainly wasn’t the prettiest or the most talented.
Did you pick me because I was the loneliest, the easiest to manipulate?
Sometimes I wonder if you feel bad about what you did, or if you even think you did anything bad. Did you ever feel bad? Did you feel remorse when I told you I loved you and you laughed at me? Did you feel remorse when you turned around and did the same thing to my best friend?
Sometimes I think you think I deserved it, or that you’re the victim in this situation. But I’d just like to know why you picked me and why you hurt me.
Because out of every other girl in the world you chose to ruin my life.
Do you want to know what you did to me? Did you know that I can’t take my socks off when I go to sleep? I panic at the smell of cinnamon and the look of a closed apartment door. And you did that. You knew that it would hurt me, and you still did that.
It isn’t fair. It isn’t fair that I stay up every night crying because I still can’t get the image of you over me out of my mind almost three years later. It isn’t fair that I can’t focus on going to college like a normal kid. That instead, I have to be back here, facing my demons that have chased me through the entirety of my adolescence.
You took that from me, my passion for theatre. You ruined a lot of things. But one thing that I can count on is that you can’t ruin those things for anyone else. And I hope that you’ve learned and I hope that you get better, because I forgave you a long time ago. But I don’t know if I can say the same for all of the other girls you hurt.
What I do know for sure is that it ends with me.