By Shane Sanderson
Via Wyoming News Exchange
CASPER — Prosecutors say the employee of a group home raped two women with mental disabilities while working at the facility.
Trae D. Smith, of Casper, who no longer works at the facility, pleaded not guilty Thursday in Natrona County District Court to eight felonies in the criminal case against him.
“Not guilty, your honor,” Smith said, dressed in Natrona County Detention Center inmate garb and standing next to his court-appointed defense attorney, Joe Hampton.
Smith faces four counts of first-degree sexual assault, two counts of second-degree sexual abuse and two counts of abuse of a vulnerable adult. Prosecutors say he committed the crimes against three different people: two mentally disabled women and a 15-year-old girl.
Court documents filed in the case blacked out the name of the facility where the alleged crime occurred. However, District Attorney Dan Itzen on Thursday afternoon confirmed by phone that Smith worked — and allegedly committed multiple assaults — at a facility associated with All About Family, which provides day and residential programs for people with developmental disabilities and acquired brain injuries.
The Star-Tribune has decided to publish the name of the company in the interest of providing information about an ongoing criminal case where the alleged victims are part of a vulnerable population. However, the Star-Tribune is not identifying the alleged victims, which is the newspaper’s standard practice in sexual assault or abuse cases.
Keith Nachbar, an attorney who represents the company, acknowledged that prosecutors have alleged crimes took place at one of the company’s facilities. He told the Star-Tribune late Thursday afternoon that the company conducts pre-employment screenings — including background checks and drug testing — with all potential new hires. Without referring to Smith by name, he said those procedures had not turned up any concerns.
When the organization became aware of the criminal case, it fully cooperated with law enforcement, Nachbar said. He said the facility’s operators have done everything they can to protect their clients and continue to advocate for them.
Nachbar said Smith is no longer employed by All About Family. The company has a policy that calls for the dismissal of employees who use or possess illegal drugs or take actions that could endanger others. That policy was followed in this case, he added.
According to court documents, Smith told police he was fired when police arrested him on suspicion of a drug crime earlier this year.
Police began investigating the case in early January after the 15-year-old told her mother that Smith had raped her, court documents state.
The girl told a police officer that she was falling asleep in March 2018 in a relative’s Casper home, when Smith came in the room and raped her twice. She did not immediately tell anyone, she said, because she did not think she would be believed, the documents state.
In December, she told family members Smith had raped her, the documents state.
A family member told a police detective that she found Smith sleeping next to the 15-year-old girl. When she looked through his phone, she found photos of Smith touching the child’s genitals, according to the documents.
In early February, a judge signed off on a search warrant and police searched Smith’s Casper home. Police found two cell phones that contained videos of a person sexually assaulting disabled women, the documents state.
Data embedded in the video files indicated they were recorded in late December, the documents state.
Smith remained in custody Thursday morning in lieu of a $100,000 cash bond.