Former BHS Football Coach Nicewarner Pleads Guilty to Two Charges; State Dismisses Third Charge

By Jeff Toquinto on March 07, 2018 via

Former Bridgeport High School football Coach and Liberty High School educator Josh Nicewarner pleaded guilty on charges relating to his arrest on July 21 regarding criminal sexual activity and a minor.
Nicewarner, 35, pled guilty to two of the three charges he was previously indicted on involving a 14-year-old female. The state agreed to dismiss the third charge, which is the sexual abuse charge by a parent, guardian or custodian or person in a position of trust.
The guilty plea came this afternoon in front of Harrison County Circuit Judge Thomas A. Bedell. He pled guilty at a hearing on pretrial motions, which means a trial that was set to begin Monday (March 12) is off.
Nicewarner pled guilty to charges of attempted solicitation of a minor using a computer and the attempted solicitation of a minor using obscene matter. Both are felonies.
Bedell has scheduled a sentencing hearing for Monday, April 30 at 9 a.m. Nicewarner could face a minimum of two years and a maximum of 15 years with a fine of up to $30,000. Bedell will determine the fate of Nicewarner at the hearing where the prosecution and the defense will likely offer recommendations.
During today’s hearing, which lasted roughly one hour and 15 minutes at the Harrison County Courthouse, Bedell said the defense could ask for probation, community corrections or home incarceration.
“It’s up to me as judge to decide what is fair in this matter,” said Bedell.  “ …  The court is not bound by the recommendation of attorneys.”
With attorney Belinda Haynie by his side, as well as Probation Officer for the 15th Judicial Circuit Michael Burnside, Nicewarner was explained the procedures involved in the guilty plea in great detail by Bedell. Bedell also asked dozens of times if Nicewarner understood the ramifications and situation that would result from his pleas. Nicewarner answer to the affirmative on those questions.
Bedell also asked Nicewarner about his activities that led to his arrest this past summer.  In particular, he asked Nicewarner to explain what took place from May 2017 through July of 2017.
Nicewarner said that he contacted the 14-year-old and “had conversations of a sexual nature as well as sending photos of myself in my underwear and depicting myself if I was in (a state of) arousal,” Nicewarner said. "We talked about what she liked and what I liked."
After his statement, Nicewarner was asked by Bedell if he attempted to entice or seduce the minor in question. Nicewarner, again, responded to the affirmative. Nicewarner also said he was not under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances during any of the time the conversations were taking place.
Nicewarner has to register, for life, as a sexual offender. He also has forfeited his West Virginia teaching certificate and can’t try to re-certify himself as an educator in West Virginia or any other state. The prosecution presented documentation showing he has already forfeited his teaching certificate.
Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Andrea Roberts, who represented the state in the matter, said the family of the victim accepted the agreement in the case to dismiss the third charge. That charge carried a penalty of between 10 and 20 years in prison and a fine of more than $500,000.
“I’ve met with the family and they don’t want to their daughter put through more than she’s already been put through,” said Roberts, who was joined in the courtroom by Harrison County Sheriff’s Lt. Detective Rob Waybright. “They accept this agreement.”
Bedell offered the family of the victim a chance to make statements. They declined, but Bedell informed the family of the victim they will also have the option to make a statement at the sentencing hearing.
Haynie asked that Nicewarner be allowed to remain out on post-conviction bond. Roberts did not challenge that and Bedell accepted it.
The plea comes after Nicewarner was indicted Jan. 4 by the Harrison County Grand Jury and after pleading not guilty to all the charges against him during his arraignment Jan. 12. At that time, all individuals indicted by the January term of the grand jury were arraigned in mass.
Harrison County Prosecuting Attorney Rachel Romano said at the time it is standard for everyone to plead “not guilty” during that procedure. She added that the plea could be changed at a later date, which is what took place today.
When arrested Nicewarner was charged with just two felony counts. The charges he initially faced were attempted solicitation of a minor using a computer and the attempted solicitation of a minor using obscene matter. The sexual abuse was not listed on August 8 when Nicewarner waived his preliminary hearing in front of Magistrate Tammy Marple. That charge was added later and became public when the list of indictments were released in January.
After the grand jury, Romano did provide some information regarding the case. Although unable to talk specifics of the case, she did say that “there was no touching or allegations of sexual contact” in the case involving Nicewarner. However, in two of the three charges Romano said that the charges of soliciting via a computer and the abuse charge by a parent, guardian or custodian or person in a position of trust is considered an “attempt” and is treated the same under statute.
Waybright was a lead investigator in the case. Bridgeport Police Lt. Detective Gary Weaver also assisted in the case, but was not in court today.
Editor's Note: Top file photo shows Josh Nicewarner with Attorney Belinda Haynie prior to his arraignment in front of Magistrate Tammy Marple in August. Judge Thomas A. Bedell is shown in the photo below.

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