POINT PLEASANT — A former Mason County School Board Member received jail time on Friday after pleading guilty to one felony count of bribery.
Teresa Warner of Point Pleasant appeared before Circuit Court Judge Thomas C. Evans, III, who approved Warner’s plea agreement which dismissed five remaining counts of bribery. The bribery charge Warner pleaded guilty to was in relation to selling a GED test in exchange for money.
Prior to Evans’ sentencing, Warner’s Attorney Mike Shaw made a statement on her behalf, asking the court to take into consideration that though Warner has conceded she made a mistake, she also had a “wonderful career in teaching” and was active in the community. Shaw, as well as Evans, also discussed the court receiving several letters of support on Warner’s behalf from people in the community, including President of the Mason County Board of Education Dale Shobe. Shaw also wanted Evans to be aware of a letter of support which was also submitted on Warner’s behalf from Mason County School’s Superintendent Suzanne Dickens. The letters reflect that for many in the community, Warner remains a popular figure.
After Shaw spoke, Warner stood before Evans to make a statement which began with her “humbly” apologizing to the court and taking full responsibility for her actions.
“I deeply regret that I jeopardized the state GED program,” Warner said, adding she also wanted to publicly apologize to her husband, children, family and friends for the ordeal her case had also put them through.
Evans then said there were several aspects of a case to consider when sentencing a defendant and that Warner’s case had even more additional features that made sentencing “very difficult.” Evans said Warner had significant trust placed in her by the state and residents of Mason County. Evans then said Warner had “betrayed the trust extended to her by those citizens who put her on the Mason County Board of Education.”
Evans then spoke about a letter from the U.S. Attorney General’s Office in Charleston which stated it was suspending its investigation of Warner - Evans said this was another benefit from the plea agreement Warner signed. He also said he was troubled by Warner’s explanation of her participation in the “episodes” regarding the GED for money charges. He called her explanation “limited.” He also spoke about another person who may be involved in the case, asking Special Prosecutor Mark Sorsaia if that person had been prosecuted, to which Sorsaia said they had not.
Evans further went on to state Warner has brought “disrepute” upon the local government in Mason County and “devalued” every GED legitimately earned by students in Mason County. Evans then rejected placing Warner on home confinement and sentenced her to not less than one year in jail and no more than 10.
Shaw asked Evans if the start of Warner’s sentencing could be delayed five days to allow her to get some things in order but Evans denied the request. However, Evans said if Shaw wanted to file a motion, he would consider it.
Warner was immediately taken into custody as family members sat behind her in the courtroom, many weeping. She was preparing to be processed and transferred to the Western Regional Jail at press time.