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New information released in arrest of Opelika attorney for child sex abuse

OPELIKA, Ala. (WRBL) -  Inside the Lee County Sheriff's office, a team of investigators worked alongside the Lee County District Attorney for nearly a year on an investigation into allegations of child sex abuse. The year-long investigation culminated in the arrest of an Opelika attorney.
 
33-year old Gabriel Smith was arrested Friday and charged with one count of sex abuse involving a child under the age of 12. Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones says the investigation is ongoing and there is a potential for more charges and possibly more victims.
 
Lee County District Attorney Brandon Hughes told News 3,  it takes an act of courage for an adult to come forward ready to prosecute the person who abused them as a child.

"Predators prey on children for a reason. One, it could be their predilection to choose a child to abuse sexually. A part of it is also they have a victim they can control to a certain degree with threats or intimidation or by telling them to keep this secret," Hughes said.
   
Prosecutors call these types of cases, "delayed disclosures" and say they are very common. IN this instance it led to Friday's arrest of Opelika attorney, Gabriel Smith, who practices injury and criminal cases, according to his website.


"In June of 2017, a lady comes into our office and sits down with me and my investigator and explains what happened to her when she was a young child," explained Hughes.
     
Investigators said in 2003 when Smith was 18 years old; he sexually abused a child under the age of 12.  Investigators say Smith knew his victim through Believer's Church in Auburn.

Ben Hand, who is a member of Believer's and their attorney told News 3 in a statement:
 
"The families knew each other prior to joining the church. Mr. Smith was not a member at the time of the alleged incident, nor did it happen on church property. Believer's lifts up prayer for all victims and is supportive to those hurting," Hand wrote.

Meanwhile, the investigation is ongoing. Hughes is asking anyone with information to come forward.

"The case occurred back in 2003. So I would encourage anyone if you know anything or have any information about the case or they feel like there is anything we need to know, please let my office or the sheriff's office know about it," Hughes said.

Investigators say while delayed disclosure cases can be challenging, they're ready to work for any victim who's prepared to come forward.

"It's not impossible, it just takes a very long and very complete investigation, and that is what we intend to do each and every time we receive this type of information," said Jones.

Smith was able to post a 50,000 dollar bail after his arrest on Friday and is out on bond awaiting his court date.


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