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Tabloid wanted copy o

by Pam Regensberg
Daily Times-Call

BOULDER -- Lawrence Shawn Smith traded a good job and his reputation for $200.

Now he faces up to six years in prison for allegedly selling photos taken at the JonBenet Ramsey murder scene to the Globe, a tabloid magazine. Smith, 36, of Boulder, was arrested Wednesday for investigation of tampering with physical evidence, felony theft, false reporting to authorities and obstructing governmental operations.

Smith worked at Photo Craft Laboratories, where the Boulder County Coroner's Office has had its film processed for 10 years. He was fired earlier this week for his alleged involvement in the photo leak.

Smith's former employer said he was a ``trusted staff member'' who acted outside Photo Craft management's knowledge.

``It is with the deepest sincerity that I extend to my community and to the Ramsey family my apology for this horrible situation,'' Photo Craft President Roy M. McCutchen said in a prepared statement.

Eight days after 6-year-old JonBenet's body was found in her home, 38-year-old private investigator Brett Allen Sawyer of Boulder received a telephone call from the managing editor of the Globe, he told authorities.

The tabloid reportedly wanted the private investigator to snoop around the JonBenet murder scene. Globe executives specifically wanted Sawyer to obtain a copy of the three-page ransom note that 40-year-old Patricia ``Patsy'' Ramsey found on Dec. 26, crime-scene photos, inside police information and interviews with the Ramsey family or with their friends and acquaintances.

The task seemed simple enough for the former Boulder County deputy who had knowledge of how the system worked. He served as a deputy in 1980 and 1981 and he had a friend at Photo Craft.

The managing editor told Sawyer he would be given his standard rate plus bonuses for obtaining a copy of the ransom note or coroner's photos, he told Boulder County sheriff's deputies.

Globe executives reportedly told Sawyer the photos were not for publication. They only wanted them so an independent expert could examine them and then a writer was to put together a story. Sawyer, who has since apologized for selling the photos to the tabloid, pocketed $5,500 for the transaction. He gave only $200 to Smith, reports said.

After reportedly giving Sawyer the photographs, Smith told him ``Let me know if you need any more,'' records stated. Smith initially denied any involvement in the photo theft.

Sawyer was also arrested Wednesday, but was booked only on a charge of obstructing governmental operations.

``During my 24 years with the Boulder County Sheriff's Department, I have never seen a case where physical evidence is co-opted in this way,'' Sheriff George Epp said during a Wednesday press conference.

Epp said there may be more arrests in the photo leak.

District Attorney Alex Hunter said Sawyer already agreed to plead guilty to the obstruction charge.

Hunter, in his first news conference appearance since the Ramsey slaying, said that when and if the case reaches his office, the public can expect the same silence it has received from Boulder officials.

``There is really only one ball in the air for me,'' Hunter said. ``That's little JonBenet. That's my focus. I will not be diverted from that course.''

The Boulder Police Department continues to maintain its secrecy and has released no new information about the investigation. The 1995 Little Miss Colorado was found in a basement room of her family's lavish Chautauqua Park home. The parents, John and Patsy Ramsey , have gone into hiding and have not spoken publicly since they were interviewed by a Cable News Network reporter on Jan. 1.

The family's spokesman, Washington, D.C., publicist Pat Korten, said through a secretary Wednesday that he is not releasing any new information at this time.