A famous Culpeper gospel musician and former church music leader has been released from prison in an ongoing sexting case involving a 16-year-old public school student.
Respected members of the community have come to the defense of Craig Alexander “Alex” Smith by facilitating his release on August 9 on a guaranteed bond of $40,000. The 47-year-old former worship leader of Culpeper Baptist Church had been in custody since his July 12 arrest.
Culpeper County Circuit Court Judge Dale Durrer granted bail denied Aug. 2 by Deputy Judge Gil Berger in the Culpeper Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court. Berger declined bail, at the request of the prosecution, due to the nature of the alleged crimes.
Defense attorney Amy Harper immediately appealed the decision. Bail was granted a week later by the higher court.
Part of the August 9 bail hearing file included letters supporting Smith from local community leaders Hortense Hinton-Jackson, Nan Butler Roberts and the Reverend Frank D. Lewis Sr., pastor of the Baptist Church of Washington. ‘Antioch to Madison.
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Hinton-Jackson wrote in her July 25 letter that she was aware of the seriousness of the charges against Smith.
“Because he is a well-known and well-loved member of the community, news of his arrest has stunned the community and those who know and love him,” she said in the letter to the court.
“To my knowledge, there was never the slightest trace of impropriety as he worked between and among different ages and groups in the community,” Hinton Jackson wrote. “We hope this matter will be quickly resolved to his advantage so that he can return and continue his exemplary work.”
She described Smith in her letter as “a very talented and gifted young man who was respectful, kind and generous.
Hinton-Jackson recalled participating in an evangelistic worship service led by Smith as well as the 2019 concert he hosted at Culpeper Baptist to raise money for the George Washington Carver Regional High’s scholarship fund. School Alumni Association and the 4-County Museum.
Roberts, in her July 28 letter to the court, said she had known Smith for more than 25 years. She described him as “the go-to person for teaching and conducting contemporary gospel music.”
He always came off as a professional, Roberts said. She added that when Smith was named musical and artistic director of Culpeper Baptist, it was a huge achievement for an African-American man in a predominantly white congregation.
“He continued to prove himself time and time again in all aspects of the position,” she wrote.
More recently, Smith was involved in three local productions that Roberts directed and wrote, including as director, she said.
“It is deeply confusing and hurtful that he can be charged with the charges as I understand them,” Roberts wrote in the letter to the court. “Everyone at some point in life has done something that we wish we could take back.”
In Smith’s case, she added, “…if he had had to relive those moments, he would have made a different decision.”
“If we’re honest with God and with ourselves, we’ve all been there,” Roberts said, thankfully saying there were no cameras, text messages or emails to review.
“I believe in second chances…Let’s not throw the harshest sentence on a young man who may have made a horrible mistake.”
Instead, Roberts appealed, giving Smith the option to apologize, provide community service, pay restitution, or rehabilitate in a positive way that supports him and his community.
Finally, Reverend Lewis, in an Aug. 7 letter to the court, said he had known Smith for many years and could attest to his character as a pastor and family friend. Lewis complimented Smith on his manners, accomplishments and creativity and said he considered him a good, hardworking and responsible person.
The local minister added in his letter that this does not justify the charges against Smith.
“If it turns out to be truly an unfortunate weakness on his part, he will show repentance and prayerful change,” Lewis wrote, saying he was ready to offer Smith additional support.
The case continued until September 23 in the JDR court.
Under bail conditions set by Durrer, Smith cannot leave Virginia, is under pretrial surveillance, has curfew, GPS monitoring, avoids contact with alleged victim, has no interaction with minors and is under house arrest.
In addition to being a former worship leader at Culpeper Baptist Church, leader of the Blue Ridge Chorale and an active community musician, the accused was a special education paraprofessional at Culpeper County High School Last year. Smith was expected to become a long-term replacement for the choir this school year.
He is no longer employed by the school system or the church following July 12 allegations by the Culpeper County Sheriff’s Office, which he said were based on statements from the victim’s mother.
The mother said her son was given a cellphone and a teacher took him home, the agency said. She told investigators she believed the teacher was grooming the teen for sex, the sheriff’s office said.
When questioned by authorities, Smith admitted to asking the teen for photos of his genitals, according to a criminal report in court records filed by school resource officer Marshall Keene.