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Newport man sentenced for hitting child, causing bruising

A Newport man will serve time in jail for hitting his toddler-aged daughter to the point of causing bruising as he watched her while the girl's mother was in jail herself.

Matthew D. Smith, 22, was ordered Thursday to spend 180 days in jail and complete a domestic violence program as part of his Washington County District Court sentencing for malicious punishment of a child under age 4, a felony.

According to the criminal complaint, Smith was caring for the girl, then age 2, for a weekend in August 2010 while the girl's mother was in Washington County Jail. They were staying at a Newport apartment belonging to friends of Smith. Two women who were at the apartment later told police that they heard loud crying and spanking coming from a bedroom where Smith and the girl were. Smith then brought the girl to a bathtub because she had urinated, and the two witnesses reported hearing spanking "over and over and over again," loud crying and Smith screaming at the girl.

One woman at the apartment said she later asked Smith about the noise and "Smith stated that he felt bad for spanking (the girl) but was going to buy her a bike to make up for it," the complaint said.

Later, the girl's grandmother called police after noticing bruising in the shape of a hand on the child's face. She later found more bruising on the child. "Daddy did this to me," the girl reportedly told a police officer.

In a police interview, Smith said he gave the girl a "little spanking," but denied hitting her in the face or calling her names.

Smith pleaded guilty Dec. 30 to the felony malicious punishment charge. As part of the plea, a felony third-degree assault charge was dropped, along with a gross misdemeanor charge of malicious punishment of a child.

Smith received a stay of imposition on a prison sentence, but was ordered to spend 180 days in jail with credit for time served. He will serve the time by working on a county Sentence to Service work crew. He is on probation for five years, and was ordered to have no contact with the girl.

Scott Wente

Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011.

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