A Bethel jury delivered a verdict of “guilty” on 14 counts of sexual felonies against 49-year-old John Mark Hammonds, an elementary school teacher and coach at the Akiachak school.
Hammonds, who also acted as a self-proclaimed pastor in the village of Akiachak in southwest Alaska’s Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, faced charges related to sexual abuse and assault of two victims.
The convictions stem from incidents that occurred in 2021 while Hammonds was teaching at the Akiachak school.
In addition to the 12 counts related to his time as a teacher, the jury found him guilty on two additional counts of sexual abuse of a minor in the second degree for incidents that took place in Wasilla in November 2019. Hammonds was convicted of one misdemeanor count that occurred while he was in custody.
The 15 counts brought against Hammonds 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, and one misdemeanor count for unlawful contact while in custody at Goose Creek Correctional Center.
The trial lasted three weeks, during which the Bethel jury heard testimony from 32 witnesses. Among those who testified were 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, making it a comprehensive and emotional trial.
The case was investigated by the Alaska State Troopers, with Assistant Attorney General Bailey Woolfstead from the Office of Special Prosecutions’ Rural Prosecution Unit leading the prosecution. Paralegal Bethany Kaiser of the Bethel District Attorney’s Office also assisted in the legal proceedings. Alaska State Trooper Coby Sutton, the investigating case officer, played a vital role throughout the trial.
Hammonds is currently being held without bail until his sentencing, scheduled for Jan. 19, 2024. If convicted, Hammonds faces a sentencing range of 40 years and 5 days to 595 years.