Ard pleads guilty to criminal charges - WCIV-TV | ABC News 4 - Charleston News, Sports, Weather

Ard pleads guilty to criminal charges

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Ken Ard walks out of court in Richland County Friday. (WCIV) Ken Ard walks out of court in Richland County Friday. (WCIV)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCIV) -- South Carolina Lt. Gov. Ken Ard resigned and pled guilty to seven criminal ethics violations Friday. He will not serve any jail time.

It all happened quickly. The plea came hours after he resigned from office and only a short time after South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson announced the indictment. Ard, with tears in his eyes, admitted to campaign contribution violations he was accused of in 2010.

Just as quickly as the other events of the day, Ard was sentenced --  five years probation and 300 hours of public service.

There was no running from the claims. Prosecutors outlined in court Ard's reimbursement schemes and what he used the money to purchase. Ard was accused of giving $75,000 of his own money to people who then returned the money through contributions. Prosecutors say he then used that money to purchase, among other things, clothes and a ticket to see the South Carolina Gamecocks play football in Atlanta.

"Your honor, there's so many people I need to apologize to," Ard said. "...Your honor, I stand here accepting 100 percent of the blame. Whether I knew the rules or not, my name was on the sign."

Wilson says Ard also received $87,500 in contributions that could not be matched to the person who allegedly gave them.

"No one's above making a mistake," Wilson said. "But, I do hope that it does say that when you run for office, you have to be careful. People are allowed to make mistakes. We don't prosecute mistakes. We prosecute wrongful actions that are illegal."

The 48-year-old Republican has already paid a $48,000 civil ethics fine for using money from his 2010 campaign to pay for personal items.

Despite the turn of events, some politicians spoke kindly of Ard Friday.

"I've known Ken since we were on the campaign trail. He was always good to me. He just made some mistakes," said state Treasurer Curtis Loftis. "We all are subject to the grace of God and he didn't do well here and he's got to pay a price."

"We think the best of him and his family and hope they come through this okay. What happened today was Ken took responsibility for his actions. He stepped down, and now we move on."

In a statement issued Friday morning, Gov. Nikki Haley thanked Ken Ard for his service and described her second in command and his family as "good people."

Senate Pro Tem Glenn McConnell announced Friday he will take over as lieutenant governor.

* ABC News 4's Natalie Caula, Brian Troutman and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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