Male Iowa Sex Felon to Be Released after Gender Transition

Mairead McArdle

The Iowa attorney general’s office is releasing a man convicted of multiple sex crimes, rather than committing him to a mental institution indefinitely as recommended by the state’s expert, because the man has undergone hormone therapy as part of a gender transition process.

Former Midwest Christian Services student Joseph Matthew Smith, 23, was convicted of molesting a fellow student in 2014 and is accused of molesting as many as 15 victims from ages one to 13, including the repeated molestation of a 7-year-old. Smith was molested repeatedly as a child around age seven as well.

Smith was sentenced to prison in 2015 and expressed a desire to begin the gender transition process in 2017, undergoing hormone therapy over the past two years at Newton Correctional Facility.

The attorney general’s office on January 9 dismissed the application to commit Smith, who now goes by the name Josie and was transferred this month to the Sioux City Residential Treatment Facility in anticipation of an eventual release.

“An offender’s hormone levels are an important part of substantiating an offender’s likelihood of recidivism,” a spokesman for the attorney general said. “We don’t believe we have evidence sufficient to prove Josie Smith has a significant chance of re-offending.”

Smith will still be registered as a sex offender, which requires that he continue to meet with a probation officer.

“Josie Smith will be subject to strict sex-offender reporting required of those who commit the crimes she did,” the spokesman said. “She’ll be subject to supervision for the rest of her life.”

A preliminary report by Iowa’s expert on the issue, Dr. Jeffrey Davis, put the chance that Smith would offend again sometime over the next five years at over 20 percent.

“Mr. Smith has not had an intimate relationship,” the report stated. “His sexual encounters appear to have primarily involved molestation, including his own molestation by multiple perpetrators, or his victimization of others.”

The report recommended that Smith be committed indefinitely as a sex offender, but to do so the state is required to prove Smith had an over 50 percent chance of re-offending, a burden of proof that was complicated by Smith’s now lower testosterone levels.

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