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6th man convicted in child sex ring

LAWRENCEVILLE - The last of six co-defendants who preyed on a 12-year-old girl used as bait in an online sex ad has been convicted of child molestation, prosecutors said Monday.

A jury found Brent Smith, 25, of Kennesaw, guilty of a single count of child molestation for responding to the ad, meeting the girl in Duluth and having sex with her. He was acquitted on a second count of statutory rape.

Deliberations began early Friday and concluded about 14 hours later, Lisa Jones, Assistant District Attorney, said.

A sentencing hearing is pending. Jones declined to say what her sentence recommendation to the judge will be.

Smith had been free on $22,200 bond and was at liberty to leave the courthouse as testimony concluded during the three-day trial. Following his conviction, he was taken into custody at the Gwinnett County Jail, where he'll remain without bond until his sentencing.

The victim, now a high school sophomore, pointed to Smith during testimony last week as one of six metro Atlanta men who molested her during the summer of 2005.

At the time, the victim testified, she was staying on weekends with Duluth resident Wilbur Caldwell, a lifelong acquaintance and high school friend of her father's whom she called "Uncle Mac." She testified that Smith photographed her in provocative ways and uploaded pictures to an amateur model Web site, a means to lure men to his home, which was riddled with hidden cameras.

The pictures were doctored in Photoshop and purported the girl as 18 years old. Prosecutors said the men who responded knew she was a preteen but had sex with her regardless.

Caldwell has since been sentenced to 15 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to child pornography charges.

Smith was the last defendant to stand trial. Each of the other five men have been sentenced to between five and 20 years in prison.

Prior to his arrest last week, Smith worked as a waiter while living with his parents in Kennesaw, Jones said. He will be required to register as a sex offender for life.