Leader Blues

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

TOP STORY > >As rumors fly, principal says he’s innocent

By RICK KRON
Leader staff writer

Tim Ballard, the former principal and boys basketball coach of Abundant Life School, pleaded not guilty to first-degree sexual assault Tuesday morning at Sherwood District Court.

His case was also moved to Pulaski County Circuit Court and the files are being sent to the prosecuting attorney’s office.

Once the files are reviewed by the prosecuting attorney’s office and deemed sufficient to proceed, a date in circuit court will be set. If the prosecutor feels there is not enough evidence to support the felony charge, the charge could be reduced and the case sent back to Sherwood.

Sherwood District Judge Milas “Butch” Hale III also allowed Ballard, 39, to remain free on the $50,000 bond he posted over the weekend after his Friday arrest.

Police are interviewing 10 to 12 other possible victims.

Both Ballard and his wife Sharon, who is an English teacher at Abundant Life, have been placed on administrative leave with pay.

According to Sherwood police reports, Ballard apparently had inappropriate relationships with at least two girls, and his bosses were aware of sexual complaints as long as 11 years ago.

Sherwood police started their investigation on March 1 after the school had placed Ballard, an 18-year veteran of the school, on administrative leave in late February. The department received a phone call from an anonymous male who said that Ballard had been accused of having sexual relationships with several female students and asked that something be done about it.

Sherwood police detectives interviewed Dr. Russell Eudy, the school’s superintendent, and Sylvan Hills First Baptist Church Pastor Keith Brickell. The school is affiliated with the church.

Eudy told the detectives that he received an e-mail on Feb. 21 from a former student stating that she had carried on an inappropriate, long-term relationship with Ballard starting in seventh grade and going through her senior year.

The e-mail, which was turned over to the detectives, supposedly gave specific details about the relationship. Eudy said he informed Pastor Brickell about the e-mail on Feb. 24.

According to the report, both Brickell and Eudy said it was not the first time accusations had been made toward the coach.

Eudy said the first time was 11 years ago and, before this incident, the most recent was in September 2009.

While detectives were interviewing Brickell and Eudy, the police department received a call from another female saying she was also a victim and wanted to speak to the detectives in the case.

Ballard was a no-show as a coach at a Feb. 25 game that his boys team lost.

Assistant coach Chris Horton has been appointed interim coach. The athletic director, Justin Moseley, said the school had no plans yet for a permanent replacement.

At this point, Ballard has only been charged with one count of first-degree sexual assault/sexual contact by a professional in position of trust/authority over a person less than 18 years of age. But authorities say there could be additional charges involving more victims.

Prosecuting Attorney Larry Jegley said the charge is a felony and carries a penalty of six to 30 years in prison and a fine up to $15,000.

Ballard’s attorney is Hubert Alexander of Jacksonville.

The allegations are similar to the case of Sylvan Hills Middle School coach Tyson Norsworthy of Jacksonville, who pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a 15-year-old student. He was sentenced to five years in prison on March 9.