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Former Berkeley County teacher pleads guilty to identity theft, faces 10 years in prison

July 17 trial scheduled on charges of child abuse

April 02, 2012|By RICHARD F. BELISLE | richardb@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W. Va. — Rebecca Jean Ferguson, a former Berkeley County public school teacher, is facing up to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty Monday to eight counts of identity theft in Berkeley County Circuit Court.

Ferguson, 40, of 10245 Williamsport Pike in Falling Waters, W.Va., set up eight credit card accounts using her then-14-year-old daughter’s name, according to testimony at a 2 1/2-hour pretrial hearing Monday before 23rd Circuit Judge Christopher Wilkes.

The plea bargain calls for Wilkes to sentence Ferguson to serve a maximum of 10 years in prison. He set a sentencing date of May 21.

Had Ferguson opted for a jury trial and been convicted on all counts, she could have faced a maximum sentence of 40 years, Berkeley County Prosecutor Games-Neely said.

She was arrested Sept. 28, 2010, and indicted in February 2011.

Ferguson, in a separate case, faces a July 17 trial on 11 counts of child abuse stemming from allegations that she struck her children with a broom, metal baton and other objects, according to court records. Wilkes set a pretrial hearing in that case for July 16 at 3 p.m.

The identity theft case, had it gone to trial, would have required two days in court and testimony from more than a dozen witnesses, Games-Neely said.

She and Defense Attorney Chris Prezioso reached a deal at the last minute Monday.

Ferguson pleaded guilty to all eight counts through an Alford plea, in which she did not admit guilt but agreed the state had ample evidence to find her guilty in a trial.

Much of Monday’s testimony centered on whether statements made to Cpl. J. Walker, the West Virginia State Police trooper who investigated the case, should be introduced in the trial. Wilkes decided the jury could hear the statements, but his ruling was made moot by the plea bargain.

Ferguson resigned from her job as a seventh-grade language-arts teacher at Spring Mills Middle School. She previously taught at Musselman High School. She was employed by Berkeley County Schools for four years.

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