By MATTHEW UMSTEAD
10:06 PM EST, November 14, 2012
An attorney accused of failing to provide legal services to clients after they paid him was ordered to serve 120 days in jail as a term of a probation during his plea and sentencing hearing Wednesday in Berkeley County Circuit Court.
Kenneth J. Ford, 37, of Middle River, Md., was placed on five years probation, but combined prison sentences totaling three to 20 years were suspended by 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Gray Silver III, who agreed to allow the defendant to serve the jail time on weekends.
Ford also was ordered to pay $12,950 in restitution, a minimum of $215 per month, Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Christopher Quasebarth said after the hearing.
Ford told the court Wednesday that he intended to make larger payments to pay the restitution more quickly. The restitution is owed to 10 victims, according to Quasebarth.
Just prior to being sentenced Wednesday, Ford pleaded guilty Wednesday to five felony counts of obtaining money by false pretenses, one count of forgery of a public record and one count of uttering a public record.
The plea agreement originally was presented to the court in August.
Aside from the jail time, Ford is expected to undergo a psychological evaluation, which Silver told the defendant might be helpful.
Ford, who is expected to begin serving the jail sentence this Friday, was allowed to serve the jail time on weekends to allow him the opportunity to keep his job at a company where he is answering phones, according to Quasebarth, who handled the case in the absence of Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Gregory K. Jones.
In August, Jones said the state’s recommendation for disposition of the case was based on the defendant’s lack of criminal history and acceptance of responsibility. The state did not seek jail time in the case, but the court decided otherwise given the victims’ plight in the case, according to Quasebarth.
Ford’s indictment came less than two months after his license to practice law in West Virginia was annulled by the state Supreme Court of Appeals.
The felony charges surfaced in January, when Ford was arraigned in Berkeley County Magistrate Court on allegations that he forged a court order after being paid by former West Virginia University basketball standout Kevin Pittsnogle for legal services that were not provided.
West Virginia State Police filed additional charges subsequent to that case involving other clients who retained Ford, but did not receive services.
The state high court’s order to annul Ford’s license came at the recommendation of the hearing panel subcommittee of the Lawyer Disciplinary Board, according to court records.
In addition to recommending the license annulment, the disciplinary board stipulated that Ford’s law practice be supervised for two years and that he be required to complete 12 hours of continuing legal education in ethics if his license ever was reinstated, according to the order.
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