Skip to main content
Press Release

Former School Administrator And Retired Colonel Found Guilty Of Failing To Report Child Abuse At Bluegrass Challenge Academy

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Kentucky

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – A retired Colonel in the Kentucky National Guard and the former Director of Bluegrass Challenge Academy was found guilty last week in United States District Court of failing to report child abuse, announced United States Attorney John E. Kuhn, Jr.

Following a three-day trial, a federal jury deliberated approximately two hours before finding John Wayne Smith, 65, guilty of the charge. 

Smith was charged in a federal superseding indictment on April 22, 2015, with violating Title 18, United States Code, Section 2258.  The statute applies to facilities and individuals on federal lands and requires that individuals in certain positions, such as school administrators, report to law enforcement or child protective services as soon as possible if they learn of facts that give reason to suspect child abuse.  While the statute was enacted in 1990, this appears to be the first trial under the statute. 

According to the evidence presented at trial, from 2003 to December 2013, Smith was the Director of Bluegrass Challenge Academy, a quasi-military school for students at-risk of not finishing high school.  The Academy is located on Fort Knox military base.  In early-February 2013, Smith learned that a 17-year-old female student at the Academy had alleged Stephen Miller, one of the staff members, forced her to touch his clothed penis.  Around the same time, Smith also learned that another female student had accused Miller of touching her inappropriately.  There was an internal investigation and Miller was reprimanded, but continued to work at the school, where his office was on the same hall where the female cadets showered and slept.  Smith did not report the matter to law enforcement or child protective services.  Law enforcement only became aware of the allegations through the investigation of an August 2013 incident, in which another female student accused a staff member of forcing her to perform oral sex on him.   

In July 2015, Stephen Miller pled guilty to conduct related to both February 2013 incidents, as well as the August 2013 incident.  Before Smith hired Miller to work with female students at the Academy, Miller worked as a police officer in Leitchfield, Kentucky.  He resigned the position following complaints of inappropriate conduct toward two women.  On February 1, 2016, Miller was sentenced to 48 months for conduct related to four separate incidents at the Academy. 

Smith is scheduled to be sentenced on May 19, 2016.He faces a sentence of up to one year in prison and a $100,000 fine.

Assistant United States Attorneys Amanda E. Gregory and Stephanie M. Zimdahl are prosecuting the case.  The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) with assistance from the Army Criminal Investigation Division conducted the investigation.

Updated February 24, 2016

Project Safe Childhood