BOZEMAN — A Belgrade man appeared in Gallatin County Justice Court on Thursday, facing a felony sexual abuse of children charge after he reportedly attempted to arrange a meeting with a Special Victims Unit detective who thought was under 16.
Joseph F. Smith, 54, appeared in Judge Rick West, who set bail of $250,000. His next court appearance is set for Sept. 9, 2022.
According to charging documents, on Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2022, a Bozeman Police Department detective was contacted on a social networking application by a man named “Joe” (later identified as Smith) who engaged in conversation. The detective had created an undercover persona of a fictitious juvenile male. During the conversation, the detective reportedly advised Smith that he was a juvenile, under the age of 16. Smith reportedly questioned the boy about a sexual encounter and said he would bring condoms to the meeting.
The detective’s persona and Smith allegedly arranged a meeting in Bozeman, where Smith was stopped and taken into custody.
During an interview with the detective, Smith reportedly admitted to engaging with the persona on the app and was aware the persona was a juvenile. Smith also reportedly confessed to sexually assaulting other children in his past. Investigations into these incidents are still ongoing, according to court documents.
The arrest follows a similar case from August 10, 2022, where a Bozeman man who claimed to be a Bozeman High School tennis coach appeared in Gallatin County Justice Court, facing a felony sexual abuse of children charge after he reportedly attempted to arrange a meeting with an undercover detective he thought was 13 years old.