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Sex crimes felon released to Sioux City halfway house after gender change
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Sex crimes felon released to Sioux City halfway house after gender change

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SIOUX CITY -- An Iowa resident convicted of multiple child sex crimes has been transferred to a Sioux City halfway house after a judge ordered the individual's release from prison.

Joseph Smith

Smith

Joseph Michael Smith, 23, who now identifies as a female and goes by the name Josie, was convicted in 2014 of molesting a fellow resident at Midwest Christian Services in 2013, when he was 16. Smith was sent to a Peterson, Iowa, facility as part of his sentence for previous sexual misconduct incidents in Pottawattamie County when he was 15. 

Smith was initially given a suspended 10-year sentence and three years' probation in connection with the Buena Vista County case. The probation was revoked in 2015 and he began serving his sentence of up to 10 years in prison.

Smith admitted to several other incidents in which he was never charged, according to a July 2018 court evaluation written by a physician, obtained by the Storm Lake Times and provided to the Journal. 

The report said Smith acknowledged abusing 15 victims, ranging in age from 1 to 13 years old, dating back to 2011 when he lived in Louisiana, though the evaluation also cited a total number of victims of "more than 15."

Smith was considered to be "well-above" average risk for recidivism at the time of the evaluation, while his cooperation with supervision in custody was described as "poor." Smith had a series of disciplinary infractions while incarcerated between 2015 and 2018, many sexual in nature. 

While in state custody, Smith was diagnosed with gender dysphoria. In October 2017, he reported he wished to identify as a female and wanted to be called Josie Maria Dunham. 

Smith was originally scheduled to be released from custody in July 2018, but Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller's office had sought to keep Smith in custody upon the completion of his prison sentence, under civil commitment in a special ward for sexual offenders in the Cherokee Mental Health Institute.

In a November filing, defense attorney Thomas J. Gaul reported that Smith was "undergoing medical treatment that is needed prior to his potentially undergoing gender reassignment procedure. Besides this medical treatment being necessary, if Respondent does undergo such a procedure, it may affect whether he is eligible for civil commitment, the basis for this proceeding." 

Lynn Hicks, a spokesman for the Iowa attorney general's office, noted Smith's medical records are sealed by the court. 

On Jan. 9, District Judge David A. Lester ordered Smith be released upon completion of sex offender registration, after Miller's office filed a motion to dismiss the case. 

Hicks said there was nothing the attorney general's office could do to keep Smith incarcerated after a state's expert issued an opinion that she did not present a high risk of re-offending. The expert opinion left the AG's office with no viable case to keep Smith incarcerated, Hicks said. 

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Smith was transferred to the state Residential Treatment Facility in downtown Sioux City on Jan. 11.  

Maureen Hansen, district director of the Third Judicial District's community-based corrections program, said the date of Smith's release from the facility will depend on factors, including her behavior and progress made in treatment. 

Hansen stressed that residents of the facility are under fairly tight supervision, with some having to wear GPS monitors when they leave to go somewhere. 

"Our residents can't just come and go," she said. 

Hicks also stressed the public should not be concerned about Smith's eventual release; she will be under life-long supervision and registered as a sex offender. 

"The public should be reassured that Josie Smith will be on lifetime supervision," Hicks said. 

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