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Utah professor says he's innocent of child porn charges

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 5:49 PM EST, Mon November 28, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Massachusetts judge sets bail at $75,000
  • NEW: Authorities seize Grant Smith's laptop and cell phone as evidence
  • The Utah professor is to return to court on December 27
  • He is accused of looking at child porn on a cross-country airline flight

(CNN) -- A Utah professor allegedly caught looking at child pornography during an airline flight said Monday at a court hearing that he is innocent, the Suffolk County, Massachusetts, district attorney's office said.

A passenger aboard Grant D. Smith's Salt Lake City-to-Boston flight on Saturday spotted him looking at what appeared to be images of young girls, nude or performing sex acts, and alerted the flight crew and a family member, who in turn notified law enforcement, according to a statement from the district attorney's office.

When a flight attendant asked Smith to shut down his computer, he began deleting images, prosecutor Erik Bennett said, CNN affiliate WCVB reported. Police who met the plane were able to recover 66 images from the computer, said the station, citing authorities.

Smith's laptop and cell phone were seized as evidence, and investigators will seek a search warrant to examine their contents thoroughly, according to the statement.

"These weren't photos of a child in the bath that a parent might keep," Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley said. "These were explicitly sexual and extremely disturbing."

Cops: Teacher caught viewing child porn

During Monday's hearing, a judge imposed bail of $75,000 and ordered Smith to return to court on December 27. He pleaded not guilty.

If Smith posts bail, the judge ordered, the father of two cannot have any unsupervised contact with children under the age of 16 or use the Internet for anything other than business purposes. He would also be required to allow law enforcement to search his personal and work computers at any time.

Smith, 47, is a professor of material science and engineering at the University of Utah. He has been placed on administrative leave pending resolution of the criminal case, the school said.

"Professor Smith deserves a full and fair investigation into this issue," the school said in a statement. "The University of Utah, however, has no tolerance for viewing or possessing of child pornography by any of its employees, regardless of where it occurs."

He will be fired if the allegations are proved to be true, the school said.

Smith received a bachelor's degree from the school in 1985 and finished his doctorate in 1990, according to the school's website.

He is also president of Wasatch Molecular Inc., a consulting company that helps companies develop advanced materials, according to the company's website.

He was previously an assistant professor at the University of Missouri in Columbia and a senior research scientist at the NASA Ames Research Center in California, according to his biography on the company's website.

He's been on the faculty at the University of Utah since 1997, according to his Wasatch biography.

A victim's advocate told WCVB that the brazen nature of the allegation is shocking.

"The notion that someone would be so bold as to view it in public is extraordinary, and I'm not sure what the explanation is," Wendy Murphy told the station.

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