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Child porn images found on professor’s laptop

DA calls photos ‘disturbing’; Utah professor held

Multiple images of child pornography were recovered from the laptop of a University of Utah professor who had arrived in Boston on a flight from Salt Lake City Saturday, prosecutors said yesterday.

“These weren’t photos of a child in the bath that a parent might keep,’’ Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley said in a statement. “These were explicitly sexual and extremely disturbing.’’

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Grant D. Smith, 47, of Cottonwood Heights, Utah, faces charges of possession of child pornography after a sharp-eyed passenger in the seat behind Smith noticed him looking at some images on his laptop, prosecutors said.

Smith pleaded not guilty yesterday in East Boston District Court and was ordered held in lieu of $75,000 cash bail. A judge scheduled a pretrial hearing for Dec. 27.

Prosecutor Erik Bennett said the passenger behind Smith on the Delta Air Lines flight saw what Smith was doing and sent an e-mail to his son, asking him to contact Massachusetts authorities.

The passenger, an Arizona man, also alerted a flight attendant who confronted Smith and told him to shut off his computer, Bennett said. Smith allegedly tried to erase images from his computer.

State Police met Smith’s flight at about 4:30 p.m. Saturday, prosecutors said, and troopers gained consent from Smith, who had been sitting in the first-class cabin, to look in his MacBook Pro, which he said had been purchased through a research grant from his university.

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Troopers found still images of young girls, some nude and some engaged in sex acts with men. Authorities believe the children depicted were between ages 5 and 14, prosecutors said.

Smith is a professor of materials science and engineering and an adjunct professor of chemical engineering at the University of Utah. He has worked at the university for 14 years, Bennett said.

Smith wore a dark gray blazer over a black polo shirt in his court appearance. He stared into the distance and did not speak. His lawyer, Patrick Murphy, entered his not-guilty plea for him before Judge Kenneth V. Desmond.

Murphy said Smith was a family man who traveled frequently to the Boston area as part of his job.

Smith has a doctorate and two master’s degrees. He is divorced and shares custody of his two children, ages 8 and 10, Murphy said.

Smith was placed on administrative leave by the university following his arrest.

The university said Sunday that he deserveds a full and fair investigation, but that if the allegations were found to be true, the school would move to dismiss him.

Brian Ballou can be reached at bballou@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeBallou. Martin Finucane can be reached at MFinucane@globe.com.

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