Ward, a 33-year-old White Plains resident, was facing four charges in Calhoun County and one charge in Cleburne County of sex or deviant sex by a school employee with a student under the age of 19. The Calhoun County charges involved two students and the charge in Cleburne County involved one student.
According to court documents, Ward could be sentenced to a minimum of two years and up to 20 years in state prison for each of the three charges. He also could be fined up to $30,000 for each charge, the documents state.
The two Calhoun County charges involving the other student could still go to trial, Weems said.
She said the three charges that Ward pleaded guilty to are now closed and she will prepare for the sentencing hearing, scheduled for Feb. 28 at 9 a.m. in Calhoun County Circuit Court.
Heflin Police Chief A. J. Benefield said the other two charges were heard Tuesday by the Calhoun County Grand Jury. He should know by Jan. 21 if the grand jury indicted Ward, Benefield said.
Weems said the plea was unusual and happened quickly.
“I found out yesterday,” Weems said. “The plea was set yesterday morning for 3 p.m.”
With his guilty plea, Ward is now considered a sex offender, Weems said. When he is released from jail he will have to register as a sex offender where he lives and under Alabama law he will no longer be eligible to teach in a school, she said.
Staff writer Laura Camper: 256-235-3545. On Twitter @LCamper_Star.