GRAND PRAIRIE (CBSDFW.COM) – Judge George Gallagher sentenced a 49-year-old Grand Prairie man to 50 years in prison on Friday for devising an elaborate, deviant scheme to blackmail a teenage girl into having sex with him numerous times last year. On Thursday afternoon, jurors deliberated about three hours before finding Thomas Jefferson Smallwood, Jr. guilty of six counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child and three counts of sexual assault of a child.
Smallwood elected to have his punishment assessed by Judge Gallagher, who sentenced him to 50 years in prison on each of the six counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child and to 20 years on each of the three counts of sexual assault of a child. The sentences will run concurrently.
During the trial, prosecutors Heather Davenport and Jacob Mitchell presented evidence that Smallwood used an alias, nude photos, and threats to blackmail a 15-year-old girl into having sex with him on repeated occasions.
The victim testified that in the summer of 2012, she was on vacation in El Paso when she began receiving messages over social networking sites from a guy named “Jay-lo,” who purported to have gotten her contact information from her friends. She and “Jay-lo” struck up an online friendship and he convinced her to send him nude pictures of herself.
Shortly after the teen sent “Jay-lo” the pictures, however, Smallwood — who she had known for nine years and who was a father figure in her life — called her in El Paso and angrily claimed that someone had put nude photos of her in his home mailbox in Grand Prairie.
In the following days, Smallwood told the teen a stranger named “Jay- lo” had contacted him and was threatening to show the nude photos to her mom, neighbors and friends unless the teen and Smallwood had sex.
Over the next three months, the teen testified that she was blackmailed into having sex with Smallwood eight to 14 times. The mysterious “Jay-lo” ordered them to videotape their encounters and specified what sex acts they must perform and for how long. “Jay-lo” threatened to go public with the teen’s photos if they disobeyed his demands.
The teen testified that Smallwood made her wear a mask during the assaults and she chose to wear headphones to try and drown out what was happening.
The teen testified she eventually realized “Jay-lo” and Smallwood were the same person and Smallwood had orchestrated the twisted scheme to have sex with her. She said Smallwood threatened that she or her mother would be killed if she told anyone.
By December 2012, however, the teen finally found the courage to tell her mother and her mother’s best friend. They went to police, an investigation was launched and Smallwood was arrested.
During a tape-recorded interview with Grand Prairie Police Detective Tim Paulson, Smallwood claimed he and the teen were being blackmailed by a stranger named “Jay-lo” but that he never had sex with the teen. He claimed he picked up a woman, whose name he didn’t know, from 7- 11 and had sex with her with a mask on to satisfy the demands of “Jay-lo” and protect the teenage girl. He claimed he paid the unnamed woman $250 for sex, but could not remember whether that happened two or three times.
The detective told Smallwood he didn’t buy his story – and this week, neither did the jury.
“With his elaborate planning and repeated, deviant assaults on this child, the defendant proved that truth is stranger than fiction,” said Assistant District Attorney Heather Davenport. “We are thankful that justice came swiftly for this survivor and her family.”
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