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Boy Scouts Official: Guilty of Child Porn

A former high-ranking Boy Scouts of America (search) official who ran a task force that worked to protect children from sexual abuse pleaded guilty Wednesday to a child pornography charge.

Douglas Sovereign Smith Jr. (search), 61, faces five to 20 years in prison.

Authorities found 520 images of child pornography, including video clips, on Smith's home computer, federal prosecutor Bret Helmer said. The images included children engaging in sex acts.

Smith entered his plea to a federal charge of possession and distribution of child pornography without making a deal with prosecutors. During a hearing, he answered the judge's questions with "yes, sir" or "no, sir" but did not speak otherwise.

Click here to read the charges against Smith (FindLaw).

"He is contrite," said Jack Strickland, Smith's attorney. "He has accepted responsibility."

He'll remain free until sentencing July 12.

Smith worked for the Boy Scouts 39 years and led the Youth Protection Task Force (search) that aimed to shield youth from sexual abuse. He did not work directly with children, and no child porn images were found on his work computer.

Law enforcement officials indicated the pictures did not show boys who were with the Boy Scouts organization, said Gregg Shields, national spokesman for the Irving-based Boy Scouts.

Smith received the images and e-mailed them to people he didn't know, Helmer said.

"Child porn collectors collect, and they're pretty prolific in their collections, but also they want to share what they have in hopes that they'll get more new images that they've never seen," Helmer said.

Smith's charge was a result of a child-pornography investigation launched last year by U.S. and German authorities.

Authorities did not search Smith's computer until last month. When the Boy Scouts learned of the investigation, Smith was placed on leave, and then chose to retire.

"We're rededicating our efforts to provide a safe environment for our children," Shields said.

Smith, who lives in Colleyville, near Fort Worth, took over the task force two years ago. The task force had been launched in the mid-1980s and soon became widely admired as a model program that provided a Web site, videos, literature and other resources to adults and boys in the scouts, churches and schools.

The Boy Scouts have had other problems with their personnel, including volunteers. A California court case in the early 1990s revealed about 2,000 cases of sexual abuse of scouts and other boys that Boy Scouts officials in Irving had documented privately for two decades without telling law enforcement officials.