An eastern Iowa man pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court in Davenport to traveling to Clinton, Iowa, to engage in sex acts with someone he believed was a 14-year-old girl. Darrell Duane Ward, 53, of Ladora, Iowa, faces 10 years to life in prison and a $250,000 fine on one count of enticing away a minor. He also faces five years to 20 years in prison on one count of distributing child pornography, which his attorney, Donovan Robertson, said would be served at the same time as the other sentence.
Ward has the right to appeal his sentence, Magistrate Judge Thomas Shields said. In pleading guilty, Ward gave up his right to a jury trial, which was scheduled for July 6. He also has no right to withdraw his plea.
Ward began having online chats in March 2009 with an undercover Clinton County Sheriff's deputy he believed to be a 13-year-old girl. Ward believed the “girl” turned 14 in August, court records state. Ward used the screen name “mr_romantic4157” and the profile names “Tony Adams” and “Darrell,” records state. The undercover deputy used the name “Jenny” from Clinton. Several of the chats included discussions about Ward traveling from his home in Ladora, about 35 miles west of Iowa City, to Clinton to have sex with the girl, records state.
Ward directed the “girl” to an online pornography website. He also used a file-sharing program on his computer to send the “girl” a pornographic video showing a minor, records state. Ward then traveled to Clinton with the intent of engaging in sex acts with the girl and was arrested Oct 1, 2009. Had he performed those acts on an actual 14-year-old girl, he would have faced third-degree sexual abuse charges, prosecutor Joel Barrows said. Ward admitted to chatting with “Jenny” almost daily over the course of a few months, records state. The deputy was trained by the Iowa Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. Ward's sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 22 in U.S. District Court.