Former Spokesman-Review editor arrested and accused of paying girls for sexually explicit images

22 July 2023

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — A former Washington state newspaper editor was arrested on allegations of paying girls in exchange for sexually explicit images.

Steve Smith, 73, was executive editor of The Spokesman-Review in Spokane from 2002 to 2008. Washington State Patrol detectives arrested Smith Thursday on 10 counts of first-degree possession of depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct, KHQ reported.

He declined a jail interview with The Spokesman-Review Thursday evening. At a hearing Friday, he was ordered held on $25,000 bond. The Associated Press was unable Friday evening to locate an attorney who could speak for Smith.

An account in Smith’s name for a mobile cash payment service was linked to an investigation into children using social media to send sexually explicit photos of themselves in exchange for money sent to them via the app, according to court documents.

The victims, 10-to-14-year-old girls, sent images to an Instagram account and received money through a cash app account. Internet activity of both accounts were traced to Smith’s Spokane home, the documents said.

Chat conversations showed Smith was aware of the girls’ ages, the documents said.

He had a “very large amount” of images depicting child sexual abuse and was actively downloading more when investigations searched his home Thursday, the documents said, adding that when a detective asked if he knew why they were there with a search warrant he replied, “yes, it’s probably from what I have been downloading.”

After leaving The Spokesman-Review, Smith served as a journalism clinical associate professor at the University of Idaho, specializing in teaching journalism ethics. He retired in 2020.

The nonprofit news organization FāVS News, which has employed Smith as a columnist since 2020 and recently named him managing editor, said Friday that he’d been suspended indefinitely following the arrest.

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