Ex-coroner pleads guilty in Woodford County to sexual misconduct with boy, 14

gkocher1@herald-leader.comMay 29, 2012 

VERSAILLES — Former Woodford County Coroner Steve Ward was sentenced to nearly a year in jail Tuesday after pleading guilty to one count of sexual misconduct, a misdemeanor.

The plea came on the day Ward was scheduled to go on trial for six felony counts of third-degree sodomy.

Ward pleaded guilty to engaging in "deviant sexual intercourse" without the consent of a 14-year-old boy. The encounters with the boy, who is now an adult, happened from 1998 to 2000, according to an indictment. The other five counts of third-degree sodomy were dismissed.

Special prosecutor Andy Sims said the victim, who was in court Tuesday, approved of the plea agreement.

"This is based on the victim's wishes," Sims said. "He felt, and I agreed, that it is important for Ward to stand up and admit to what he did and take criminal responsibility for his actions, and do that in open court, which he did today."

Ward, 58, had no comment after his sentencing. He was coroner for 20 years but lost a bid for re-election in 2010 to Ronald Eugene Owens.

Ward, who operates a funeral home in Versailles, must report Friday to the Woodford County jail to begin serving his 360-day sentence.

Defense attorney Patrick Nash said no decision had been made to seek shock probation for an early release. But Nash said Ward would be a good candidate for shock probation.

"I personally think he is an excellent candidate for it, but of course, it's put to the judge," Nash said.

Nash had asked Special Judge Bill Clouse to consider putting Ward on probation rather than sending him to jail. Nash said Ward had been "a valuable member of the community" and was active with United Way and the Salvation Army.

Clouse said he "was fully aware" that Ward had been a productive member of the community.

"However, what happened here was dastardly, was horrible," the judge said. "The court is not of a mind to diminish the seriousness of this particular offense to grant probation."

Clouse initially wanted Ward jailed immediately, but he granted a defense request to have Ward report to the jail Friday so he could take care of three funeral services this week.

Greg Kocher: (859) 231-3305. Twitter: @HLpublicsafety.

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