A former Charleston state senator avoided prison time Thursday, but will have to serve 350 hours of community service and repay nearly $70,000 after pleading guilty to four ethics-related charges.
A circuit judge sentenced State Sen. Robert Ford, D-Charleston, to a total of 12 years in prison for the charges, but suspended the sentence in favor of five years probation, $69,000 restitution, and community service.
Ford had agreed to plead guilty back in January to two counts of False Reporting, one for Misconduct, and another for Forgery. He was given seven years suspended on the misconduct charge, three for forgery, and one year each on the false reporting charges. He was given five years probation for each conviction, to be served concurrently.
Circuit Judge Robert Hood mentioned recent examples of other state politicians avoided prison on ethics charges before making his ruling. Former lieutenant governor Ken Ard also received five years probation and community service in 2012 on seven counts related to illegal personal reimbursements and filing false campaign reports. Former House Speaker Bobby Harrell had a prison sentence suspended last year in favor of three years probation and a $30,000 fine after pleading guilty to six counts of using campaign funds for personal expenses. Both of those men were Republicans.