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Smith’s Sentencing Delayed Due to Public Defender’s Heavy Caseload

Sentencing for Alfredo Bruce Smith — the former Charlotte Amalie High School track coach who has admitted to sexually abusing a dozen student-athletes over a 15-year period — has been rescheduled to March 26 after his public defender sought an extension due to his heavy caseload.

Smith was scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 9, but V.I. District Court Chief Judge Robert Molloy on Thursday granted Federal Public Defender Matthew Campbell’s motion to extend the deadlines for sentencing memoranda to be filed as well as the sentencing date.

Smith, 53 — a former hall monitor and athletic coach at CAHS on St. Thomas — admitted to 20 different offenses committed against a dozen male student-athletes over a 15-year period at a change of plea hearing on Sept. 13.

He has admitted to rape, unlawful sexual contact, production of child pornography, enticement and coercion of minors to commit unlawful sex acts, and transportation of minors for the purpose of committing sex crimes.

He faces a prison term of 30-35 years, though Molloy has deferred a decision on whether the court will accept the plea deal until he reviews the presentence report and has heard from all parties in the case.

Smith was arrested on Sept. 1, 2021, after witnesses brought allegations of his sexual misconduct to Homeland Security Investigations when complaints to school officials allegedly went unaddressed. He has been held at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Puerto Rico since then.

In seeking an extension of case deadlines, Campbell said the draft presentence investigation report by the U.S. Probation Office was longer than normal at 36 pages, given the nature and number of charges, and that the guideline calculations and factual allegations are more detailed and complex as compared to a typical case.

On Dec. 8, the day that the draft report was disclosed, Campbell said in his motion that he was preparing for oral arguments in two cases before the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, whose jurisdiction includes the U.S. Virgin Islands. The court held hearings on St. Croix the week of Dec. 11.

Beyond that, Campbell listed 10 other cases he is representing that have motion, pretrial and trial deadlines in the same timeframe as the deadlines in the Smith case, including a defendant from Florida who is charged in the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol that will require the attorney to travel to Washington, D.C.

Campbell did not respond to a request for comment on why a public defender working in the U.S. Virgin Islands is involved in a Jan. 6 case in the District of Columbia, and whether his caseload is the norm for the Public Defender’s Office.

However, a 160-page study released in September found that standards developed for public defense workloads in the early 1970s that are still the default today are overly broad and “simply too high.”

Those standards, which at the time were adopted and incorporated into a report by the National Advisory Commission on Criminal Justice Standards and Goals, estimated that the maximum number of cases a defense attorney could handle per year included 150 felonies, 400 misdemeanors, 200 mental health cases, 200 juvenile cases, and 25 appeals.

The September study — a collaboration between the RAND Corporation, the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defense, the National Center for State Courts, and St. Louis lawyer Stephen Hanlon — found that the NAC standards “fail to differentiate among types of felonies, giving equal weight to a burglary, a sexual assault, and a homicide. They have also been criticized for being developed without a defensible methodology. Additionally, there has always been concern that the NAC standards are simply too high,” it said.

As early as 1978, a study noted that “one is hard put to imagine carefully investigating every case, as is required by [prevailing standards of criminal defense practice], if the lawyers are handling 150 felony cases per year, or 400 misdemeanors per year,” the Rand study states.

“Even assuming that the lawyer is working 40 hours per week, 52 weeks per year on cases (2,080 hours per year), caseloads at the maximum sizes allowed under the NAC standards would permit an average of only 13.9 hours to be spent by that attorney on each felony case or 5.2 hours on each misdemeanor case,” according to the study.

“The results of this study strongly suggest that the caseloads of public defense attorneys are more excessive than previously thought and that decisive action is needed to ensure that public defense clients receive the effective assistance of counsel required by the Constitution,” read the study, titled the National Public Defense Workload Study.

It concluded that “overloaded public defense attorneys simply cannot give appropriate time and attention to each client. They cannot investigate in a timely manner or fully. They cannot file the motions they should. Instead, attorneys are forced to triage cases, choosing which cases to focus attention on while allowing others to be resolved without appropriate diligence. A justice system burdened by triage risks unreliability, denying all people who rely on it — victims, witnesses, defendants, and their families and communities — efficient, equal, and accurate justice.”

The study authors recommended that rather than lumping all felonies together, that they be divided into six categories, from the most serious — defendants facing life without parole — to the less so, such as burglaries or simple assaults, and that each category be assigned an average hours-per-case: 286 hours for higher crimes and 35 hours for the lowest level of felony.

Based on those numbers, an attorney working 2,080 hours annually would be capped at seven “high” felony cases per year, rather than the 150 currently dictated by the NAC standards, according to the study.

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