Ex-clerk Elizabeth Smith sentenced to 6 months' house arrest

A federal judge sentenced former Beaufort County Clerk of Court Elizabeth Smith to six months of house arrest today for misusing federal child support enforcement funds, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Smith appeared before District Judge Sol Blatt for a sentencing hearing in Charleston after pleading guilty in March to one count of conversion ofpublic money.

Blatt also sentenced the former clerk to two years probation after the six months of home confinement are up, said federal prosecutor Winston Holliday.

Smith was charged by the U.S. Attorney's Office in September 2010 with writing five unauthorized checks worth $338,500 in federal child-supportfunds to pay her husband's salary while he oversaw the Beaufort County Drug Court between January 2006 and June 2009, according to federal court records.

Holliday said federal prosecutors recommended Smith spend some time in prison, but Blatt opted for a more lenient sentence.

"The judge varied downward, citing the fact that Ms. Smith had already paid back $68,500, had suffered professionally, lost her reputation and had two elderly parents in failing health to care for," Holliday said. "It was certainly less than what the sentencing guidelines set forth. Theyrecommended she be put in prison for a short time, and we agreed with those guidelines."

The charge carries a penalty of as many as 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, according to federal law.