Man sentenced to prison in child sex act case

FRONT ROYAL — A town resident was sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison Tuesday on a charge of forcible sodomy involving a 12-year-old girl.

The defendant, Darryl Joshua Ford, 24, was also sentenced to lifetime probation, the first three years supervised, after he is released from prison. Ford’s total prison sentence was 45 1/2 years, all but 5 1/2 of which were suspended.

Warren County Circuit Judge Dennis L. Hupp gave Ford a week to report to the Rappahannock-Warren-Shenandoah Regional Jail before he begins to serve his sentence.

Authorities say a Front Royal police officer called to investigate a report of a suspicious vehicle on Depot Avenue on May 23, 2014, found a male and female, later identified as Ford and the victim, performing a sex act in the back seat of the vehicle. Ford was 23 at the time and the victim, after initially stating she was 15 years old, was later found to be 12, police said.

Hupp called the sentencing decision “extremely difficult” after hearing from what he called a “very impressive” list of witnesses that included two clergymen, the victim’s mother and Ford’s aunt, all of whom urged leniency.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Brian Madden asked for a 10-year sentence, noting that he had already given Ford a major break by charging him with only one count of rape. Police said Ford and the victim admitted to previous sex acts, including sexual intercourse.

Darong Hultman urged Hupp not to focus on the single crime Ford committed. She urged Hupp to consider her client “as a whole” and his quick admission to “everything” in the case.

“This is not a man who denied everything and came in at the last moment and pleaded guilty,” Hultman said.

Supporters of Ford filled one side of the courtroom, and Ford apologized to them as he spoke to Hupp.

“All these people in the courtroom, they’re here for me,” Ford said. “I hurt them so much.”

After deliberating more than a half hour, Hupp returned to the courtroom and delivered the sentence. He reminded Ford and his supporters that the crime of forcible sodomy against a child under 13 carries a sentence of up to life imprisonment. Despite the testimony from defense witnesses, the nature of the crime was too serious for Ford not to receive a long prison sentence, Hupp said.

“We all would agree that getting involved with sexual conduct with a child is something that is taken very seriously by this court and not to be tolerated in the community,” Hupp said.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com