Family Angered Over Plea Deal

10-12-05 - A man who pled no contest to sexual battery is on his way to prison in Bryan County, but his victim's family says his sentence is not tough enough for what he did to their daughter.

In August of 2004, Donald Ray Smith, 44, was at a party drinking with several high school and college aged students. One of them was a 17-year-old girl that he had sex with against her will.

It is a crime that initially carried a punishment of life in prison, but after the case made it's way through the court, It's possible Smith could be out from behind bars in three years.

Police heard both sides of the story. A 17-year-old girl claiming she was raped after a party in Durant. She accused Smith, a roommate of one of the girl's friends.

In his written statement, Smith said "She might of told me to stop but I don't remember. I did feel bad for what happened, so I did apologize. She was drinking beer that night. So was I."

The DA's office decided to charge Smith with first degree rape which is a crime punishiable by life in prison. On September 30, 2005, the victim's family showed up to court expecting a trial.

Instead, they where shocked.

Smith agreed to plead no contest to lowered charges of sexual battery. He received a sentence of five years, and two of those years was suspended by the judge.

The girl's father, who's identity we are concealing, said his family had talked about a potential plea bargain of perhaps ten years, but nothing like what he received.

Like many rape cases, what happened on the night of August 29, 2004, comes down to the suspects word against the victims. It is a tough situation for a jury to tackle.

Bryan County DA Emily Redman says she talked with the victim and her family, and after those conversations and a careful review of the case, they made what they felt was the right decision by lowering the charges and agreeing to the plea.

The victim's father said there were talks with the DA but most focused around preparation for trial and not plea deals.

37:15 only thing we talked to her about was if my daughter was prepared and ready to testify.

They talked to the DA about if the 17-year-old victim was prepared and ready to testify which was something she was prepared to do. In the end, the DA's office decided that making a deal was the only way to assure that Smith saw jail time.

Redman has spoken to the victim and her family since the sentence. She says it's sad when a victim is disappointed, but all things considered, the outcome of this case was appropriate.

The judge in the case is requiring Smith to undergo drug and alcohol treatment during his time in the Department of Corrections.