Ex-Boulder Shambhala member pleads guilty to attempted sexual assault on a child

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Michael Smith

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BOULDER, Colo. (KDVR) — A former member of a Boulder Buddhist organization pleaded guilty to first-degree assault and attempted sexual assault on a child, the 20th Judicial District Attorney’s Office said Wednesday.

Michael Smith, 55, met the victim when he was staying at her parents’ house in 1997. The victim was 13 years old at the time. According to the DA’s office, Smith groomed the victim and “subjected her to sexual contact for a number of years.”

Smith and the victim’s parents were members of Shambhala, a Tibetan Buddhist organization.

In 1998, Smith trapped the victim in a small closet and attempted to have intercourse with her, the DA’s office said.

The victim contacted the Boulder Police Department.

“The victim’s parents decided not to provide the name of the defendant to the Boulder Police Department and dealt with the ongoing sexual abuse within the Shambhala community,” the DA’s office said in a written statement.

In 2019, the victim again reported the abuse to BPD after police arrested William Karelis, another former member of the Boulder Shambhala, on suspicion of sexual assault on a child.

Smith was then arrested.

“The District Attorney’s Office is committed to fighting for victims of sexual abuse. This defendant sexually assaulted the victim for years. Even with the passage of time, sex offenses often cause lasting trauma for the victims. I appreciate the response and efforts of the Boulder Police Department and our staff. Their hard work allowed us to secure the right outcome in this case,” District Attorney Michael Dougherty said.

Police said a second woman said she was victimized by Smith when she was 11 years old at a Buddhist retreat center in Barnet, Vermont. That case is being investigated by law enforcement in Vermont.

Smith’s sentencing is scheduled for May 6. He faces between 15 and 25 years in prison.

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