Calhoun County District Judge Debra Jones denied the motion today by an attorney for Bronson Shay Ward to reduce Ward’s bond to a total of $150,000 in property bonds.
Ward, 33, was charged Friday with five counts of having sex with students under the age of 19. Four charges stemmed from alleged incidents in Calhoun County; the other stems from an alleged incident in Cleburne County. His bond in Cleburne County, a property bond, was set at $30,000. But in Calhoun County, Jones set a $50,000 cash bond for each charge. That would require Ward to provide $200,000 in cash to be released from jail.
Defense attorney Bill Broome asked that the Calhoun County bonds be amended to property bonds of $30,000 for each charge. That would allow Ward or his family to put their homes or property up as security, Broome said.
Over Broome’s objections, prosecutors at the hearing played a taped statement by Ward admitting to having sex with two students during their senior years at Cleburne County High School.
“This is not the time or the place for that,” Broome objected several times before the statement was played. “The only thing before your honor today is the bond reduction.”
But Jones overruled Broome’s objection saying she needed to consider the likelihood of conviction as one of the criteria for reducing the bond.
After the hearing, Broome said that in his 36 years as a defense attorney, he’d never seen a judge allow the use of such a statement in a bond reduction hearing.
The courtroom was filled with Ward’s family and friends. Some quietly cried during the hearing. After hearing the statement, members of his family gave emotional testimony asking that Ward’s bond be reduced.
Andy Ward, the principal of White Plains High School and Ward’s brother, said Ward could live with him or his parents. Both he and his parents live within walking distance of his brother’s home, Andy Ward said.
“I know he’s made some mistakes, obviously,” Andy Ward said. “But I know he cared about his kids. That’s probably his biggest fault, getting too involved in their personal lives.”
Larry Ward, the accused’s father, testified that he was retired and could stay home with Ward during the day to make sure he didn’t leave the property.
Prosecutors asked Andy Ward and his parents if they had seen the teenage girls at Ward’s home; they all said they hadn’t. When prosecutors continued to press, his mother asked why the girls’ mothers hadn’t known where their daughters were.
Ward, who sat in the courtroom handcuffed, bent over the table in front of him, crying as his family testified.
Broome argued that all accused of crimes are presumed innocent until proven guilty in court, and that the crimes Ward is accused of are not violent. Ward has ties to the community, Broome said, and his family will vouch for him. He suggested the court order his client to wear a monitoring bracelet to ensure he is not a danger to the community.
But prosecutors said that Ward had deceived people for three years during the alleged crimes.
Prosecutor Jennifer Weems told the court that Ward didn’t simply make a mistake, he is accused of sex crimes. In addition, after being told he could not contact the victims, Ward asked his mother by phone to contact one of the victims to tell her he was all right, Weems said.
“He could affect the ongoing investigation,” Weems said.
Jones denied the bond reduction. She said the alleged crimes were against multiple victims and included more than one offense. She also noted that Ward’s family had been unaware of the alleged crimes, although they were within walking distance of Ward’s home, where many of the incidents were alleged to have taken place.
Broome said if the case goes to trial, it could be early next year before it is scheduled. He declined to say whether he would appeal the bond.
“That’s an option,” Broome said. “There are a lot of options.”
Staff writer Laura Camper: 256-235-3545. On Twitter @LCamper_Star.