A former Columbia coach was sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty to child abuse in Howard Circuit Court yesterday for molesting two boys he had coached.
Tracy Kevin Ward, 25, pleaded guilty to two counts of child abuse for masturbating over the boys after instructing them to lie down and do exercises during private practices.
"I'd like to apologize to all the families I've hurt," said Ward of the 5400 block of Cedar Lane. "They put a lot of trust and faith in me, and I betrayed it. . . . I realize what I've done is wrong."
Before sentencing Ward, Judge Dennis Sweeney said the case highlights the dilemma the courts face between the need to provide therapy for defendants and to protect the public from a defendant's actions.
Judge Sweeney initially sentenced Ward to 15 years in prison but suspended all but 5 years of the term. The judge also ordered Ward to undergo counseling and complete five years' probation.
The judge also said the defendant's probation officer must approve of any employment or volunteer work that Ward seeks to make sure he does not come into contact with any juveniles.
Ward was initially charged with six counts of child abuse and three counts each of assault, battery, perverted practices and fourth-degree sexual offense.
Had Ward been convicted of all the charges, he would have faced a maximum sentence of 273 years in prison.
Ward was arrested after a 14-year-old baseball player reported that his coach took him to the Long Reach village playing fields for a special practice on May 12, 1992.
The coach told the boy that the practice was only for pitchers, but no other players showed up for the session.
The boy said Ward put a cord over his eyes and instructed him to lie on his stomach and perform reverse sit-ups. As the boy performed the exercise, Ward straddled him and masturbated.
News of Ward's arrest prompted two other boys to go to police and report that similar incidents had occurred to them while with Ward.
A 13-year-old basketball player reported that Ward called him to a special practice at Wilde Lake Middle School in January or February 1992.
At the practice, attended only by the boy, Ward instructed the boy to lie on his stomach and perform hyperextension exercises. While the boy did the exercises, Ward sat on his buttocks and masturbated.
Charges related to the incident involving the third boy were dropped by prosecutors as part of a plea agreement.
At the time of the offenses, Ward was midway through a five-year probation period for sexually abusing a 12-year-old boy in 1989. That incident occurred while Ward was a counselor at Boys' Village of Maryland in Cheltenham, a state juvenile facility.
Ward is at the Prince George's County Detention Center pending a hearing for violating his probation for the 1989 offense. As part of his probation, Ward was to avoid contact with minors.