Cody Ledbetter remains incarcerated in Canada.
A bail hearing for the former Yellow Jacket standout began in the Canadian capital, Ottawa, Ontario Wednesday, and according to his retained attorney, Mark Etrel, who spoke with the Empire-Tribune by telephone Thursday, the legal proceeding will most likely wrap up today.
Etrel said a justice of the peace will decide if Ledbetter, 37, is granted release on criminal charges that stem from a July 31 incident involving an alleged assault against a female. Ledbetter is facing charges of assault causing bodily harm and uttering threats during a domestic disturbance against the woman, who is reportedly his pregnant ex-girlfriend.
Etrel also said even if Ledbetter is granted bail, he will likely remain behind bars for at least another week due to pending immigration issues. He said bail would also have to be granted in the immigration proceeding before Ledbetter is released.
While Canadian border authorities are looking to deport Ledbetter, Etrel explained it is not because of incidents involving a 16-year-old student at Alvarado High School, where he worked as an assistant coach. Ledbetter pleaded guilty to two counts of the second-degree felony offense, in Johnson and Tarrant counties, and was sentenced to 10 years of deferred adjudication probation in each case. The sentences were set to run concurrently, according to Stephenville attorney Garry Lewellen, who represented him in both cases.
Etrel said in Canada, a case of improper relations between a teacher and student is not a crime, and one of the requirements of the Extradition Act is that to be returned to the United States, the offense must also be a crime in Canada.
“Here (in Canada), that would be a disciplinary matter handled within the College of Teachers,” Etrel said. “There is no corresponding criminal offense.”
But Ledbetter faces deportation for other reasons. According to Etrel, Ledbetter failed to inform Canadian border officials that he has a previous “impaired driving” conviction, which is a crime in the country.
According to court records, Ledbetter previously pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated in Erath and Johnson counties.
“I can’t imagine he would be deported for that,” Etrel said.
But other than being a fugitive from American justice with a history of drunk driving, Ledbetter has overstayed his welcome in Canada, according to Etrel. He said by law, international visitors are only allowed to remain in the country for six months and the same rules apply to Canadians visiting the U.S.
In regards to extradition, Etrel said he has not yet located an application to Canadian border services from Johnson County authorities. Officials in Johnson County, where Ledbetter is the No.1 fugitive from justice, are reportedly in the process of preparing extradition orders, Lt. Tim Jones with the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office said.
“I have not found any instructions from Texas to begin the extradition process,” Etrel said, adding that before Ledbetter is extradited, a warrant for his arrest must be issued. “As far as I know, one doesn’t exist.”
Locally, people are asking how Ledbetter escaped sexual assault charges when he was charged in the Johnson and Tarrant County cases.
Lewellen said Thursday negotiations with prosecutors led to the lowering of the sexual assault charges to improper relationship between and educator and student. He also said a big factor in reaching an agreement on the reduced sentence was the fact that the relationship was reportedly consensual.
Lewellen also said if Ledbetter would have maintained his responsibilities by following the rules set forth in the conditions of his probation, he could have avoided having the felony offenses on his permanent record, and the lowering of the charge meant he is not required to register as a sex offender.
Lewellen said as part of the plea agreement, Ledbetter was required to forfeit his teaching certificate.