HARRISBURG - Pennsylvania prosecutors said Thursday that two lawyers, a Kansas couple, and a Potter County woman have been charged with a scheme to pay the woman to let the couple adopt her infant daughter.
The charges were filed nearly two years after a Potter County judge halted the adoption proceedings.
Court records say Coudersport lawyers Jarett Rand Smith, 43, and his former wife, Donna Marie Albright-Smith, 38, helped arrange the adoption for Jerome R. Smith, 47, and Eileen Rifka Smith, 42, of Overland Park, Kan. They are Jarett Smith's brother and sister-in-law.
The mother, Krista Samme Eveland, 24, of Coudersport, said in a tearful phone interview Thursday she did not try to sell her child, has done nothing wrong, and feels deceived about the circumstances of the adoption. She currently has custody of the girl, now 2.
"There were things that were suspicious about the whole situation," Eveland said. "Every time I came to [Jarett Smith or Albright-Smith] about something I felt was wrong, they always tried to reassure me."
All five are charged with conspiracy and dealing in infant children. Jarett Smith is also charged with dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities, while the other four also face criminal solicitation charges.
Bill Hebe, a lawyer for the Kansas couple, said they expect to be vindicated.
"Jerome and Eileen did not pay any money to buy a baby, did not authorize anyone to offer or pay any money for a baby," Hebe said. "They were excited about an adoption and relied upon counsel to handle the adoption properly and obviously were extremely disappointed when it fell through."
Jarett Smith's lawyer, George Stenhach, said his client maintains his innocence and looks forward to his day in court.
A phone listing for Albright-Smith's law practice was not in service, and a home listing could not be located. District court officials said she did not have a lawyer on record.
A state police probable-cause affidavit, filed with all five sets of charging documents, gave the following account of what authorities believe occurred:
Potter County President Judge John Leete informed investigators in June 2009 that a local lawyer had told him that Jarett Smith and Albright-Smith had unsuccessfully tried to buy a client's baby for $20,000, and that the lawyer had heard they were able to purchase Eveland's daughter, who had then just been born.
Albright-Smith told an investigator a month later that she approached Eveland and the girl's biological father about adoption; they were receptive, she said, and she told Eveland she could be reimbursed for reasonable pregnancy expenses.
According to Albright-Smith, Jarett Smith paid part of Eveland's rent, gave her gas money, bought her phone cards and subsidized her groceries. She also said she gave Eveland $400 from Eileen Smith after the child was born.
Police said Eveland told them she was supposed to get a payoff of $4,500 to $6,000 after the adoption was final.
Eveland said Thursday she was concerned the matter might affect custody of her two daughters.
"I'm not a bad person, I'm not a bad mother, and I definitely never tried to sell my child," she said. "Every time I pass through town, everybody looks at me like I'm a monster."