By Joe Gorman
A Neilson Avenue father and son were each placed on five years’ probation in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court after they entered guilty pleas to abusing a developmentally disabled family member.
The probation was recommended by prosecutors and also approved by representatives of the female victim and cannot be appealed.
Judge R. Scott Krichbaum sentenced Thomas Ward Jr., 53, on two counts of gross sexual imposition and his 83-year-old father Thomas Ward Sr. was sentenced for public indecency.
Natasha Frenchko, an assistant county prosecutor, told Judge Krichbaum on Thursday the pleas and sentences were only recommended after meeting representatives of the team that cares for the victim in the case, who is an adult but has the mind of a child.
The pleas assure that the victim no longer has contact with Thomas Ward Jr. and can only see Thomas Ward Sr. under supervised visits approved by a court, Frenchko said. They also keep the victim from having to testify in court, Frenchko said.
Frenchko said the elder Ward was taking care of the victim when his wife died and that’s when his son returned from California to help him care for the victim and the abuse occurred.
A county grand jury indicted the Wards in May.
Thomas Ward Jr. apologized and said he would never be in trouble again. He said being in jail for 21 days was a unique experience, and he tries to read his Bible every day.
Thomas Ward Sr. also apologized and had trouble speaking because he appeared to be upset. He was brought into court in a wheelchair. Judge Krichbaum said despite the plea recommendations, the pair deserved a harsher sentence than they were getting.
“This whole thing is disgusting,” Judge Krichbaum said to the elder Ward. “You should be ashamed of yourself.”