Bond Hearing Disclaimer: The following individual(s) appeared in a felony bond hearing that was held in Yell County Circuit Court and has been accused of a felony crime. All information included in this story was obtained through testimony and/or police reports provided in the hearing. The charge(s) they have been accused of are anticipated charges and probable cause must be determined in order for the suspect to be held and issued a bond amount. All suspects are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

Following the Conway Police Department’s arrest of former Danville High School girl’s basketball coach Ryan James “RJ” Smith, 32, on May 27th, on June 1, 2021, he appeared in a Faulkner County felony bond hearing accused of 35 counts of Computer Child Pornography. After probable cause was determined in holding him by the judge during the bond hearing, Smith was ordered to be held on a $250,000 cash or commercial bond.

On Tuesday evening, June 1, Smith posted bond in the amount of $250,000 in order to be released from custody at the Faulkner County Detention Center but instead, Smith was transported to Danville and booked into the Yell County Detention Center after a felony hold was placed on him by the Danville Police Department.

Smith was booked into the Yell County Detention Center on Tuesday night, June 1, 2021, just before 11:30 p.m. for the charges of Computer Child Pornography and Video Voyeurism.

On Thursday, June 3, 2021 Smith appeared in a felony bond hearing by video before Fifteenth Judicial District Circuit Court Judge Jerry Don Ramey. Smith’s Criminal Defense Attorney, Debra Reece, was present during the hearing in the Yell County Circuit Court courtroom.

During the hearing, the judge accepted testimony of  Conway Police Department Detective Brittany Little in order to determine probable cause in holding Smith on the charges.

Detective Little testified stating that the Conway Police Department began an investigation on May 23, 2021 after Smith took his cell phone to a business to have the screen repaired. After replacing the screen, the employee began closing apps on Smith’s phone when he observed an image that appeared to be “a naked underaged female.”

At that time, the business contacted the Conway Police Department and advised them of what the employee had discovered. The Conway Police Department responded to the business and the phone was seized. While police were present, Smith arrived to pick up his phone and was advised by officers of the images that were found on his phone. Smith was also advised that his phone would be held due to the child porn located on it. While speaking to the officers, Detective Little stated that “Smith had little to no reaction and simply said the phone hadn’t been used in about eight months.”

Smith never denied the images were on the phone or attempted to give any indication of why they were on it. The detective stated that Smith calmly walked away after speaking with officers. 

On May 26, 2021, the Conway Police Department obtained a search warrant for Smith’s phone and it was executed. While going through the phone, Detective Little advised the judge that numerous photos of underage female were found. She continued to state that the photos appeared to have been taken in a locker room and upon further examination, the chairs in the locker room had the words “Little Johns” on them. 

At that time, Detective Little contacted Danville Police Chief Rick Padgett and shared what information she had obtained and also learned that Ryan James “RJ” Smith, was a former girls basketball coach at Danville High School.

The detective continued to state that the photos found on Smith’s phone seemed to be taken at an awkwardly low level and each photos appeared to be a screenshot of a video. The photos depicted girls who appeared to be 13-17 years old. The detective advised, “There are thousands of photos on the phone, so going through each one of them has not been done yet. I believe there to be at least 100 images that contain nude children.”

Testimony offered during the hearing also revealed that while Smith was employed by the Danville School District, allegations had been brought to the attention of school officials concerning Smith inappropriately texting a 15-year-old student. The allegations were brought to the attention of school officials by a parent of the 15-year-old. Through texts, Smith admitted to his wrong doing and stated he knew he should not be doing what he was doing but his excuse for his actions were because ”he was in love with her” and he trusted her not to say anything. The detective stated that she contacted the parents of the alleged victim and they stated they turned over text messages to the school during the summer of 2020. The victim’s parents stated that in the texts Smith was professing his love for their daughter, spoke of wanting to have a relationship and how he wanted to kiss her. 

The detective stated that she contacted current Danville High School principal Kim Foster who advised she knew about the allegations against Ryan Smith, but Foster failed to report the allegations to the child abuse hotline or to local law enforcement. Foster then stated that the Athletic Director and the Superintendant were mainly over Smith and how the situation was handled.

School officials met with Smith regarding the allegations and he was given the option to resign from his position or he would be terminated.

On or around July 22, 2020, Smith resigned from his position with the Danville School District and later moved to Conway. Text messages later revealed Smith’s confession to the inappropriate relationship with the student and in late 2020, Smith’s teaching license was revoked.

Detective Little advised Judge Ramey that although they charged Smith with 35 counts of Computer Child Pornography, additional counts for the images found will like be added. “As many as 140 counts,” Detective Little stated.

The ongoing investigation not only led to the discovery of images, but also the discovery of videos that showed numerous underage females changing clothes and  showed the juveniles both partially and fully nude.

The detective also advised that in some of the videos found, it appeared as though Smith had taken screenshots at preferred frames and had saved the screenshots as images.

Upon further search, the detective found where Smith had visited a website that sold hidden spy cameras that appeared to be charging hubs, items that you hang coats on, smoke detectors and many other items that don’t appear to be a recording system.

According to the detective, there were many text messages found that were highly inappropriate between Smith and many underage females on his basketball team. Some of the texts were repulsive in nature and included him inviting underage girls to come with him to an adult party in Conway. Others included Smith requesting nude photos of underage females.

A text message conversation was recovered from Smith’s phone that was between him and a mother of a 14-year-old student in Sevier County, in which Smith revealed a fantasy of having a sexual encounter with the mother and her daughter. Detective Little stated that the investigation is ongoing in regards to the conversation and it is unknown if the suggestion was acted upon.

After the detective concluded her testimony, Judge Ramey advised that probable cause was found in holding Smith on the charges.

At that time, Fifteenth Judicial District Deputy Prosecutor Kevin Barham advised the judge that the State of Arkansas requests Smith’s bond to be ordered in the amount of $500,000.

After hearing the State’s request, Smith’s attorney, Debra Reece addressed the court and informed the judge that during Smith’s Faulkner County bond hearing, the State of Arkansas requested his bond to be set for $2 million but bond was ordered in the amount of $250,000. Attorney Reece stated that Smith’s parents posted his bond so he would be able to work with her, his defense attorney  in the case.

She continued to advise that Smith was also ordered to wear an ankle monitor and would be living with his parents in Greenbrier. She stated that Smith was not a flight risk, had no prior convictions and then continued to state why the half million dollar bond should not be set. Attorney Reece stated, “Your honor these are only allegations, nothing has been proven. Bond is to ensure a defendant shows up to court and not to be used as a punishment to keep them in jail.”

Reece then requested that Smith be required to wear an ankle monitor, to require him to check in with court officials and at the very most, to set his bond for less that $50,000.

The prosecutor then stated to Judge Ramey that so far, it appeared that Smith has continued this behavior for at least the past five years. He continued to state that Smith has continued to contact juvenile females and if out of jail, had the ability to continue his contact with them. Finally the prosecutor advised that Smith could face as many as 140 Class B felonies and maybe even twice as many Class D felonies once the investigation is  concluded by the Danville Police Department.

After listening to the prosecutor and to Attorney Reece, Judge Ramey order Smith’s bond in the amount of $500,000 cash or commercial, as requested by the State. The judge also advised that if Smith was released on bond, he is ordered to wear an ankle monitor, must not commit any other criminal offense, he must not use drugs or alcohol unless prescribed by a doctor, and to have no contact with any of the alleged victims.

Smith will appear in a plea arraignment hearing to enter his plea against the charges on August 5 at 9 a.m. in Yell County Circuit Court at the Yell County Courthouse in Danville.

Just after 2:30 p.m. today, Thursday, June 3, Smith posted bond and was released from custody at the Yell County Detention Center.

According to Danville Police Chief Rick Padgett, during the investigation there has been no evidence that any other teams have been victimized. Chief Padgett added, “The victims were unaware this activity was occurring and so far we believe Smith is the only person involved and he solely orchestrated these offenses.”   

According to Arkansas Code (Computer Child Pornography. Ark. Code Ann. § 5-27-603), regarding the offense of Computer Child Pornography;

(a) A person commits computer child pornography if the person knowingly:

(1) Compiles, enters into, or transmits by means of computer, makes, prints, publishes, or reproduces by other computerized means, knowingly causes or allows to be entered into or transmitted by means of computer or buys, sells, receives, exchanges, or disseminates any notice, statement, or advertisement or any child's name, telephone number, place of residence, physical characteristics, or other descriptive or identifying information for purposes of facilitating, encouraging, offering, or soliciting sexually explicit conduct of or with any child or another individual believed by the person to be a child, or the visual depiction of the conduct; or

(2) Utilizes a computer online service, internet service, or local bulletin board service to seduce, solicit, lure, or entice or attempt to seduce, solicit, lure, or entice a child or another individual believed by the person to be a child, to engage in sexually explicit conduct.

(b) Computer child pornography is a Class B felony.

Concerning Arkansas Code § 5-16-101 - Crime of Video Voyeurism;

(a) It is unlawful to use any camera, videotape, photo-optical, photoelectric, or any other image recording device for the purpose of secretly observing, viewing, photographing, filming, or videotaping a person present in a residence, place of business, school, or other structure, or any room or particular location within that structure, if that person:

(1) Is in a private area out of public view;

(2) Has a reasonable expectation of privacy; and

(3) Has not consented to the observation.

(b) It is unlawful to knowingly use a camcorder, motion picture camera, photographic camera of any type, or other equipment that is concealed or disguised to secretly or surreptitiously videotape, film, photograph, record, or view by electronic means a person:

(1) For the purpose of viewing any portion of the person's body that is covered with clothing and for which the person has a reasonable expectation of privacy;

(2) Without the knowledge or consent of the person being videotaped, filmed, photographed, recorded, or viewed by electronic means; and

(3) Under circumstances in which the person being videotaped, filmed, photographed, recorded, or viewed by electronic means has a reasonable expectation of privacy.

(c) (1) A violation of subsection (a) of this section is a Class D felony.

Under Arkansas's laws, the sentence for a Class B felony is five to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000. Class D felonies in Arkansas, punishable by up to six years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.