Deshun Jay Foster-Smith’s probation was revoked and he was sentenced to 12 years in prison for sexual assault of a child in the 253rd District Court this week.
In 2011, Foster-Smith was working as a Harris County Sheriff’s deputy and minister. He offered to help a young girl from his church purchase school clothes and had previously counseled the child regarding issues in her life. He then requested that young girl repay his supposed generosity with an illicit act. She, though obviously scared, reluctantly complied. Not knowing what to do, she told no one. Eventually, family members checking her phone found suspicious text message conversations that she was having with Foster-Smith and they confronted her.
When she disclosed the inappropriate sexual contact, 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. 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, it does have advantages. First, 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,” said Liberty County District Attorney Logan Pickett in an emailed statement.
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. Third, should a 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 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. 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,” Pickett wrote.
Sex offender probationers are required to comply with the strictest of terms available. 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.
Lacy Teran, the probation officer assigned to monitor Foster-Smith, discovered several violations and notified Pickett, who then filed a motion to revoke Foster-Smith’s probation and a hearing was held before Judge Chap Cain. The DA, through Teran and other witnesses, presented evidence that 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 Judge Cain.
Though no new offense was committed, after hearing the victim recount that life-altering day with the defendant, Judge Cain revoked the probation and sentenced Foster-Smith to 12 years in TDC out of a possible 20-year sentence.
“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 Judge Cain and Judge Morefield. When they violate the terms ordered by the judges, we move swiftly and decisively to present these allegations to the Court. In this case, deferred adjudication provided a means to initially dispose of the case in a way that was satisfying to the victim and, in the end, allowed for just punishment of the defendant. Justice delayed is better than justice denied. Foster-Smith violated the honor of his badge and his pulpit and will spend at least six years in prison as a result,” Pickett said.