Lifer sentence issued

A Hunt County jury has sentenced a Celeste man to life in prison after finding him guilty of repeated violations of a protective order.

A Hunt County jury has sentenced a Celeste man to life in prison after finding him guilty of repeated violations of a protective order.

Russell Dean Smith was convicted by a jury in the 196th District Court Wednesday of an indictment of violation of a protective order two or more times, within a 12 month period.

Smith chose to have the jury also determine his punishment and the panel returned with the sentence Thursday afternoon, according to a statement from Hunt County District Attorney Noble D. Walker Jr.

“The verdict and prison sentence assessed in this case was certainly warranted,” Walker said. “The jury’s decision should send the clear message that repeatedly violating a protective order is a serious crime with serious potential consequences. Mr. Smith also had a long criminal history and his punishment was the just result of felony conduct which has lasted for decades.”

The charge is normally filed as a third degree felony, with a maximum sentence of up to 10 years, although Smith’s previous criminal history meant he was facing a maximum sentence upon conviction of from 25 to 99 years to life in prison.

Walker said the jury took less than an hour to deliver the maximum sentence.

“Assistant District Attorney Steve Lilley and Assistant County Attorney Lindsay Willeford did an outstanding job representing the State,” Walker said. “I appreciate their hard work in presenting this case to the jury and securing the sentence.”

Walker also thanked Lt. Eric Camp and the Greenville Police Department for their role in bringing the defendant to justice.

Officers responded on Jan. 28, 2018 to a call at a local fast food restaurant that a man was in violation of a protective order by being on the premises. They arrived to find Smith in the parking lot entering the passenger side of a vehicle. Inside the restaurant, they spoke to a female employee who had an active protective order against Smith, forbidding him from being at or near her residence or place of employment.

Smith was convicted of aggravated kidnapping and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon against the same woman in 2003 and sentenced to 25 years in prison.

When the victim was notified Smith was about to be released on parole, she obtained a lifetime protective order against him.

Less than a month after his release, Smith was caught at her place of employment and witnesses testified at trial that he had visited the restaurant about a week earlier when the victim was not there, also in violation of the protective order.

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