August 13, 2010 3:28 PM
A convicted sex offender faces new charges after two people reported seeing him touch his exposed private parts while sitting in a truck adjacent to Tony’s Ice Cream.
Robert Stephen Smith, 41, of 474 Cedar Creek Court, Iron Station, denies the allegation.
“I was going to ask a girl out on a date, I’m not a bad-looking guy,” Smith told a magistrate judge. “I was not playing with myself. I promise you that.”
Witnesses – including the son of a Gastonia Police sergeant – report that Smith had his pants down and was touching himself inappropriately in public at 9:48 a.m. Friday.
“He had his pants down and he was, you know,” said the worker at a nearby business who made the initial 911 call. “He was looking at the people coming out of Tony’s Ice Cream.
“My first thought was what if a child walked by or a teenager. I don’t know if he’s ready to pick up a child or follow someone home.”
Gastonia Police Sgt. Jeff Clark’s son works nearby and the officer said he called his son to ask him to check out the report while officers were en route. His son reported seeing the same thing as the 911 caller.
Smith spent 8¾ years in prison on a February 2000 conviction in Mecklenburg County on two counts of second-degree sex offense, according to court records. He was released from custody Dec. 29, 2007, and then had to register as a sex offender.
Smith left the parking area when a police officer pulled in behind him, according to Sgt. Clark. The officer stopped him about a block away at another business on Avon Street near Second Avenue.
The officer reported that Smith had his pants down to his knees at the time of the traffic stop. As officers handcuffed a naked Smith they said he defecated on himself in an area outside his truck.
Smith was released from custody after posting a $5,000 bond. He faces charges of indecent exposure and resisting a police officer, related to him allegedly pulling away as officers tried to handcuff him.
Smith said he spent 10 minutes in the parking lot near Tony’s Ice Cream on Franklin Boulevard near the intersection with Avon Street. He said his pants were unbuttoned because he suffers Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory bowel disorder.
He said he was trying to talk to a woman he had made “eye contact” with while driving down the road after visiting the Habitat store earlier that morning. The woman never talked with him, he said.
Smith denied the charge throughout a hearing before the magistrate judge, at one point calling his arresting officers “liars.”
He has a first court date on Sept. 28.
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