BY GLENN PUIT
TRAVERSE CITY — A man who randomly targeted an 8-year-old boy for a sex assault pleaded guilty to the crime and will spend at least 25 years in prison.
Brandon James Smith, 26, of Alden, spotted his victim playing Oct. 25 at the Grand Traverse County Civic Center. He trailed the youth home and molested the boy in the foyer of an apartment building.
“As a parent, it’s very scary,” said Grand Traverse County Assistant Prosecutor Noelle Moeggenberg, adding Smith “picked the victim out randomly.”
Smith entered a guilty plea this week to one count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. Prosecutors agreed to dismiss a count of criminal sexual conduct second-degree, as well as a habitual offender charge.
Smith faces a minimum of 25 years in prison but 13th Circuit Court Judge Philip Rodgers Jr. has the option of imposing a much longer prison term, up to life in prison, during a sentencing hearing.
“I was happy with it,” Moeggenberg said of the plea deal. “He’s obviously going to do a very significant amount of time in prison.”
Smith was a registered sex offender at the time of the October assault. He was convicted in 2008 of groping a girl, 14, at a store in Garfield Township and served five months in jail.
In the October crime, Smith watched the boy play at the Civic Center, then trailed him home. Once inside an apartment building, Smith kissed the boy and touched him under his clothes, according to a police report.
He also exposed himself to the boy.
A retired Michigan State Police trooper who handled the 2008 incident provided Smith’s name to investigators as a possible suspect.
A photo lineup was presented to the victim and he identified Smith, reports said. Authorities searched Smith’s home in Alden and found items of clothing described by the victim.
Smith’s defense attorney, Robert Kaufman, declined comment.