BY ART BUKOWSKI
TRAVERSE CITY —
Tears streamed down Brandon Smith's face as he spoke about destroying a child's innocence and the "monster" he sees in the mirror.
Smith, 26, sexually assaulted a young boy near the Grand Traverse County Civic Center in October. He spoke for more than 10 minutes on Friday before Judge Philip E. Rodgers sent him to prison for a minimum of 25 years.
"I have thought long and hard trying to find the words — any words — to describe how sorry and remorseful I am to both my victim and his entire family," he said. "There is no possible or conceivable way anything I could say could ever even begin to make up for what I've done."
A boy, 8, said Smith watched him play at the Civic Center, then followed him into his apartment building across the street. Once in the building, Smith molested the boy. He pleaded guilty in December to a count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct.
Smith said he fears — but is ready for — a prison term.
"The crime I have committed is undoubtedly the single worst act a person can commit against another person," he said. "And what makes it wicked, sick and heinous to an extreme is that I have done it to a young child."
Rodgers agreed with Smith about the immense impact on the victim.
"He will never be whole again," he said. "This is a life-altering event."
Chief Assistant Grand Traverse County Prosecutor Noelle Moeggenberg said the crime, which occurred near a busy playground and skate park, rattled local residents.
"This took away a sense of security in the community," she said.
Smith said he was molested as a child, but doesn't want to use that as an excuse. He committed an "act of evil, pure and simple," he said, that "drastically altered a young boy's perspective forever."
"He can no longer view the world in the same innocent way he did before me," he said. "I have taken that from him."
Rodgers acknowledged the cyclical nature of sex crimes, and said he hopes the young victim will receive intense counseling in the coming years so he can cope with what happened.
"His risk of standing where you are today, which did not exist before his encounter with you, now is greater than it would have otherwise been," he told Smith. "And arguably, if you had not been victimized yourself, you would not have taken the path that you did."
Smith has been down this road. In 2008, he was convicted of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct for groping a teen girl at Target in Garfield Township. He was sentenced to a short jail term and probation, but was sent to prison in June 2010 after he violated probation by having verbal contact with two young girls, court records show.
He was released from prison in November 2011, and was out for less than a year before he re-offended.
Smith no longer cares about his own future, he said, but hopes his victim can recover.
"I hope he lives a good and full life. I am sure he will make his family very proud," he said. "The last thing I wish him to know is that beauty and goodness of this world far outweighs the bad and the negative. It always has and it always will, so don't lose faith in that."