Smith County cheer coach sentenced to 24 years in prison

November 1, 2022

On Friday, October 28, former Smith County Cheer Coach Andrew Halford pleaded guilty in Smith County Criminal Court to six counts of Attempted Especially Aggravated Sexual Exploitation of a Minor and received a 24 year sentence to serve in the Department of Correction. The case involved six victims from Smith County who were students at Elite Cheerleading and Gymnastics in Carthage, where Halford was a coach. Halford confessed to investigators that he had installed a hidden video camera in the locker room of the business and obtained a video clip of each of the six students undressing. For each victim, Halford received a sentence of four years to serve, with all sentences to be served consecutively to each other for a total sentence of 24 years.

District Attorney General Jason Lawson explained the reasons for the plea. “In reviewing the facts and the law, we believed that at a sentencing hearing on this case, whether it came after convictions at trial or after convictions at plea, the sentence was going to be twenty-four years. We discussed the case with the victims and their parents and the victims preferred a plea,” Lawson said. “Due to a plea, the victims did not have to testify at the trial, and we did not have to present the evidence in court, although we would have done that in the most discreet fashion possible. Further, in a plea the appeals are waived, and so the case comes to a final conclusion on the day of the plea. It gives us more control over the outcome because there is no concern that the convictions or sentences will be altered on appeal.”

Halford has remained in custody since his arrest in January of 2021. Upon interview by police, Halford confessed to hiding the camera in the Smith County Elite Cheerleading and Gymnastics locker room. The camera was removed by Halford, but a search of the electronic devices removed from Halford’s home discovered the video clips of the six Smith County victims.

Halford has also been charged with similar offenses in Williamson County relating to another business in which Halford was employed. Those charges are still currently pending.