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Former Boulder Shambhala community member pleads guilty to child sex assault

The abuse was reported in the 90s but the victim's parents wouldn't provide the suspect's name to police, according to prosecutors. The victim came forward in 2019.
Credit: Boulder police
Michael Smith

BOULDER, Colo. — A man who subjected a young girl to years of sexual contact beginning when she was 13 pleaded guilty to numerous felonies, including attempted sexual assault on a child, according to the 12th Judicial District Attorney's Office.

Michael Smith, 55, also pleaded guilty to first-degree assault.

He sexually assaulted the victim multiple times, beginning in 1997, according to Boulder Police. 

He and the victim met when he was staying at her parent’s house in the late 1990s. Both Smith and the girl's parents were part of the Shambhala community, according to investigators.

Smith started grooming the victim and ultimately subjected her to sexual contact for a number of years, according to prosecutors.  In 1998, Smith trapped the victim in a small closet and attempted to have sex with her, according to the district attorney's office.

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After that incident, the victim disclosed the abuse and it was reported to the Boulder Police Department (BPD), however, her parents decided not to provide the name of the defendant to BPD and dealt with the ongoing sexual abuse within the Shambhala community.

“We thank the brave victim for coming forward after so many years had passed and the Boulder Police Department for their thorough investigation into these allegations,” District Attorney Michael Dougherty stated. “The District Attorney’s Office is committed to fighting for victims of sexual abuse. This defendant sexually assaulted the victim for years. Even with the passage of time, sex offenses often cause lasting trauma for the victims.”

Last year, the victim reported the abuse to BPD. A second victim also reported that Smith sexually assaulted her when she was 11 years old in Vermont, according to prosecutors. That case was investigated in Vermont.

Both victims said they came forward after learning that Boulder police had arrested a former member of the Boulder Shambhala, Bill Karelis, for sexual assault on a child. 

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Smith is set to be sentenced on May 6. He faces 15 to 25 years for the first-degree assault charges and three years for the attempted sexual assault on a child. The sentences would run concurrently.

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