The attorney for a Beckley counselor and businessman who is accused by police of first degree sexual abuse said Wednesday that his client is innocent of the felony charge.
Hamlet Smith, 50 of Pax and founder of Life Strategies of Beckley, was arrested by Beckley Police Department officers on Monday.
Gerald Hayden, Smith's attorney, declined to release details of an Oct. 22 meeting between Smith and a young adult female. A criminal complaint filed by Beckly Police Department Cpl. N.J. Walters states that the meeting occurred at 1 p.m. inside of Smith's new office on Mallard Court in Beckley.
"We do not have any problem confirming that there was a meeting between him and an adult female," said Hayden. "Their versions of the stories are different."
Life Strategies is the largest private counseling service provider in the area and offers religious counseling, along with other counseling services.
According to police, Smith allegedly invited the young adult female into his office and closed the door during an arranged daytime meeting. He then asked her for a hug. After the first hug, police allege in court documents, Smith "forced his hand down the front" of the woman's shirt "in an apparent move to touch her breast."
Police report that the woman verbally told Smith she was not interested in physical contact with him and then told him she had a boyfriend. The criminal complaint alleges that Smith told the woman that her boyfriend would not "have to know." Police report that the woman left the office in a hurry and that Smith stood up to open the door and kissed the woman's forehead as she was leaving, in an apparent attempt to make physical contact again with the woman.
"We maintain that Hamlet enjoys an impeccable reputation in the community," said Hayden. "He is someone that has counseled hundreds, if not thousands of people, within the community.
"Never has there been an allegation of any inappropriate behavior," he said. "We strongly believe there is a misunderstanding as to how this meeting ended.
"Mr. Smith maintains that he has not committed any criminal conduct whatsoever."
Hayden added that the woman was not a client and that the meeting was a professional meeting and not a counseling session.
If convicted of the felony charge, Smith would face one to five years in prison and would be required to register as a sex offender for life.
In the criminal complaint, Walters wrote, "Since being assigned this investigation, I have discovered that the statement given by the victim is an accurate account of the events that took place.
"Hamlet Smith subjected C.S. to sexual contact without her consent by forcibly placing his hand down her shirt, subsequently making contact with her breast."
When asked about an alleged police recording of a call between the woman and Smith after the reported incident, Hayden said he had not heard any recorded call.
"I cannot comment on a recording I have not heard," he said. "We are awaiting discovery.
"Once we have reviewed everything, we will evaluate it."
Raleigh Prosecuting Attorney Office Special Investigator Jeff Shumate declined to comment on a report that Walters had recorded a telephone conversation between Smith and CS, after the alleged incident.