A Bethel jury found elementary teacher John Mark Hammons guilty of 14 counts of sexual felonies.
The Aug. 4 verdict followed a three-week trial for the 49-year-old Hammonds, who worked as a both a schoolteacher and coach at the Akiachak school, while also acting as a self-proclaimed pastor in the village of Akiachak in southwest Alaska in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta.
The convictions relate to two victims. The jury convicted Hammonds of the 12 counts that occurred when he was teaching in 2021. Two additional counts of sexual abuse of a minor in the second degree relate to sexual abuse that occurred in Wasilla in November 2019 and one misdemeanor count occurred while in custody.
The 15 counts include:
— Two counts of sexual abuse of a minor in the first degree
— One count of sexual assault in the first degree
— Eight counts of sexual abuse of a minor in the second degree
— Two counts of sexual assault in the second degree
— One count of enticement of a minor
— One count of unlawful contact, a misdemeanor, while in custody at Goose Creek Correctional Center
The jury heard from 32 witnesses throughout the three-week trial and deliberated for two and a half hours before returning the verdict. At trial, witnesses from a variety of disciplines testified, including three child forensic interviewers, two nurse practitioners, seven teachers and/or administrators, and four Alaska State Troopers. The jury also heard from six children and their parents.
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The Alaska State Troopers investigated the case. Assistant Attorney General Bailey Woolfstead of the Office of Special Prosecutions’ Rural Prosecution Unit prosecuted the matter along with Paralegal Bethany Kaiser of the Bethel District Attorney’s Office.
After the verdict, Hammonds was remanded pursuant to statute and is being held without bail pending sentencing, which is scheduled for Jan. 19, 2024. Hammonds faces a sentencing range from 40 years and 5 days to 595 years.
When initially arrested, Hammonds was working for the Yupit School District, which has endured several other major sexual abuse cases over the past nine years.
The district agreed to settle a $2 million suit against a teacher in 2014, which included allegations of rape committed against nine female students. That teacher was never prosecuted or jailed.
That same year an Akiachak teacher alleged that the district did not protect her from rape, which occurred in an unsecured home provided to her by the district.
Then in 2018, an area teacher was sentenced for possessing child pornography.