Biden Judicial Nominee Said Child Predator Had 'a Lot of Good in Him'

Maine Superior Court judge Julia Lipez suspended sentence of man convicted at trial of sexually abusing two girls

Judge Julia Lipez and convict Michael T. Smith (@libsoftiktok/X)
June 13, 2024

One of President Joe Biden’s judicial nominees suspended a child sex predator’s sentence and said the convict had "a lot of good in him" during a court hearing last year.

Maine Superior Court judge Julia Lipez, who is up for Senate confirmation after Biden appointed her to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, suspended half of Michael T. Smith’s prison sentence in 2023. Smith, 45, was convicted at trial of sexually abusing two girls, aged four and nine.

The news comes as other Biden judicial nominees have come under fire for soft-on-crime records. This week, Senate Republicans balked at the nomination of Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn, who in 2022 recommended the transfer of a male convicted child rapist to a women’s prison after the convict identified as transgender. Netburn told lawmakers that she was not sure how sex is determined because she has "never studied" biology.

During a March 2023 sentencing hearing, Lipez reduced Smith’s 12-year sentence to 6 years and praised him as a "good" person.

"People are complicated," Lipez said during the hearing. "I have frankly been offered very little insight as to how or why this happened. What I can say is that this is a very tragic situation of a person who has a lot of good in him having done a very reprehensible thing to two young children."

The sentence reduction came after Smith’s young victims told the judge about the years of suffering caused by the abuse, which left them traumatized with night terrors, appetite loss, and flashbacks, according to the Sun Journal.

The "stress of my predator being free was eating me alive," one of the girl’s wrote to the judge, adding that she has undergone years of therapy and that the "pleasant memories of my childhood have been replaced with tragic, painful ones."

The other victim said she has struggled with friendships and physical contact because of the abuse, the Sun Journal reported.

Lipez’s decision to suspend Smith’s sentence came after his family members and lawyer told the court that he was a kind and hard-working person, according to the paper.

The White House, which did not respond to a request for comment, announced Lipez’s nomination late last month, calling her "extraordinarily qualified, experienced, and devoted to the rule of law and our Constitution."

Lipez has served in the Maine Superior Court for two years. Prior to that, she was an assistant U.S. attorney.