Former soldier guilty to having sexual relationship with teen – Another for the wall of shame?

MANSFIELD — A former member of the 1486th Transportation Co. could get up to 17 years in prison after admitting he had a sexual relationship with a teenage girl.

Keith Ward, 41, of 882 N. Stewart Road, pleaded guilty Monday to two counts of child endangering and one count of importuning. The offenses occurred for two years, starting when the victim was 14.

Child endangering is a second-degree felony, while importuning is a fifth-degree felony.

Richland County Common Pleas Judge James DeWeese detailed the charges during Monday’s hearing.

“The defendant was soliciting the victim to have a sexual relationship with him. He touched her on her breasts and exposed himself to her,” the judge said. “He was engaging in video chats with her. He solicited her to be pictured nude. Those nude photos were found on his computer.”

Ward was deployed to Afghanistan with the Ohio Army National Guard when the allegations surfaced, and he was sent home, Assistant Prosecutor Bambi Couch Page said.

Defense attorney Robert Whitney said Ward spent a combined 22 years in the military between active and reserve duty. He said Ward served two deployments, the first in Iraq.

Whitney said Ward has since retired from the military.

In exchange for his plea, prosecutors dismissed one count of attempted sexual battery, one count of importuning, two counts of pandering sexually oriented matter, two counts of endangering children and four misdemeanor counts of sexual imposition. Ward, who stood with his hands clasped behind his back for most of the hearing, will be sentenced April 24.

“We were unable to reach an agreement as to what the sentencing should be, so the state returned to its original position of 10 years,” Couch Page said.

There is a presumption of prison time in the case. Ward, who remains free on bond, also will be declared a Tier II sex offender, meaning he will have to register where he lives every six months for 25 years.

Whitney requested a pre-sentence investigation.

mcaudill@gannett.com419-521-7219 Twitter: @MNJCaudill

Keith Ward, a member of the 1486th Transportation Company, the Ohio Army National Guard, changed his plea from innocent on 13 counts to guilty on three counts. He could be sentenced to 17 years in jail for importuning and child endangering. He is represented by attorney Bob Whitney. / Dave Polcyn/News Journal

Interesting Comment on the MNJ site!

Ian James · North Central State College

Former Richland Correctional Institution guard or officer of the year.  Would’ve thought that’d been included in this story.
Funny how they don’t include little pieces of info. like this, I wonder why it was left out?
Wow!, if what Ian James says is true one can only assume this was left out because it would imply what we have been saying all along is true here. I’m just curious IF Bambi met him at the Fox like she did the FIRED APA SUPERVISOR who’s old boss is now the boss of Richland County corrections, hmmm?.
This story is interesting – Bob Whitney (Attorney), James DeWeese (Judge), Bambi Couch Page (Prosecutor) = All the ingredients needed for a future deal gone bad, which means in a few years we will be hearing from this guy again (Lawsuit) when he finds a deal by this clan is recipe for wishing he would have just went to trial and took his chances. Taking a DEAL from this trio means he’s accepting a LIFE SENTENCE when he thinks he’s getting the best he can get for what he did. In reality he’s right! – IF the real 10 commandments judge (God) was hearing this case it would be life in hell!
Funny how he doesn’t realize it yet, but a deal does not mean he will have it easier, it just means this Court and Attorney’s will be celebrating another back room deal soon that could place the citizens again in danger once he gets out! Quite frankly, this man is better off dead than taking a deal, watch and see in a few years when he gets out.
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