No Contest Plea Deal Nets Child Abuser 2.5-Year Prison Term

William Joseph Telford [Photo courtesy Cochise County Sheriff's Office]

William Joseph Telford was facing nearly 10 years in prison if convicted of four child abuse felonies, but last week he signed a plea deal that guarantees the most serious charges will be dismissed and he will be out of prison by the end of the year.

Telford, 57, pleaded no-contest on Feb. 17 to two charges, one which involved sexual abuse by “knowingly engaging in sexual contact” with a teenaged minor in July 2019. A no-contest plea means Telford does not admit guilt but accepts that he will be convicted as if he pleaded guilty or was found guilty at trial.

The other no-contest plea involved a child abuse charge during which Telford struck the same victim with a broom in June 2019. The criminal activity occurred in the St. David area, according to court records.

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His sentencing will take place March 15 at the Cochise County Superior Court, but Telford already knows what will happen. That’s because a plea deal negotiated by defense attorney Chris Russell and prosecutor Michael Powell stipulates that Telford will be sentenced to 1.5 years in prison for the sexual contact and 2.5 years for the broom incident.

Russell was privately retained in October 2020 after Telford became dissatisfied with his two court-appointed attorneys. The plea deal calls for Telford’s two prison terms to be served concurrently, meaning he will only have to serve 85 percent of the 2.5-year term before eligible for release from prison.

Telford has remained in the Cochise County in lieu of a $50,000 appearance bond since July 16, 2019, so with credit for time already served he should be out of prison in about six months. He must register as a sex offender upon his release.

Court records show Telford was indicted by a county grand jury of five felonies on July 25, 2019, one week after he was arrested in Pima County following a domestic incident in Tucson which sent a teenaged girl to the hospital. It was at the hospital that the girl reported being repeatedly sexually abused by Telford since age 13.

The indictment included three sexual abuse charges which alleged Telford had touched the teen’s breasts, buttocks, and vagina over her clothing. He was also indicted for the broom assault and for knowingly possessing a firearm as a prohibited possessor due to a prior felony conviction.

Telford’s plea deal calls for the dismissal of two of the sexual abuse counts and the firearm charge.

There was sworn testimony in a pretrial hearing last year that Telford was under investigation in Pima County and that federal authorities were also looking into his activities. No further information has been made available as to whether Telford faces prosecution in any other jurisdiction.