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Stuart Johnson, Deseret News
Leisa Ward in handcuffs stands in court and watches her husband Bruce Ward, speak in her behalf to 4th District Judge Donald Eyre during her sentencing hearing. Her husband told Judge Eyre he will stand by her and get her the help she needs. She received one year in jail and 3 years probation, and if she violates the terms of her probation she could be sent to prison.

NEPHI — A mother of five will go to jail for a year and spend three years on probation for, according to prosecutors, "grooming" and "preparing" 16- and 17-year-old boys for sexual relationships.

"(She) took conscious and persistent steps in maintaining this conduct and relationships," said Deputy Juab County Attorney AnnMarie Howard. "She enticed them, encouraged them and she has yet to accept full responsibility for that."

Leisa Ward, 38, was sentenced Tuesday morning in 4th District Court in Nephi to one year in the Juab County Jail on 11 counts of unlawful sexual conduct with a 16 or 17 year old, third-degree felonies.

She sobbed as she listened to her husband, Bruce, plead for probation from the judge — not prison time — so she could get sex-offender treatment.

"She needs help, and we can help her," Bruce Ward said, referring to himself and their five children. "I think we have a better opportunity to help her in a family environment."

Ward was arrested in November after Nephi police officers began investigating community rumors that turned out to be true.

The abuse began in 2007 with one underage victim, and expanded to include four more teens who had interactions with Ward in October and November.

Ward pleaded guilty in January and was set to be sentenced in late February. However, prosecutors wanted more details about Ward's attitude and behavior, so they sent her to the prison's diagnostic unit.

At the unit, Ward was evaluated for 79 days and sent back to 4th District Court in Nephi with a detailed report from Adult Probation and Parole, recommending a prison sentence.

Judge Donald Eyre said he was concerned that there was no sex-offender treatment at the prison, and so ordered that Ward should go to the county jail.

However, the possibility of prison — with concurrent sentences for five of the charges, meaning the possibility of 25 years — looms over Ward's head, should she mess up on her three years of supervised probation.

Although she was sentenced to a year, Eyre gave her credit for the time she spent at the diagnostic unit.

When Ward is released from the Juab County Jail, she will spend three years of probation with the restriction that she be supervised around children other than her own and that she not have access to a cell phone. She also has to complete sex offender treatment and pay restitution for the boys' counseling fees.

Several of the victims' mothers were in court, wiping their eyes as they listened to the proceedings.

One woman asked the judge what they could do if Ward sent text messages to their sons again. Eyre told the mother such action would mean a violation of probation, and Ward would go to prison.

Ward read from a written statement, still crying.

"I'd like to take this opportunity to apologize to the young men and all the families," she said. "I've committed very serious crimes, (brought) damage and shame ... on so many people. I would like to find some way to make right the wrongs I've done, and the sorrow and pain I've caused upon these boys and their families."

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