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Client testifies she was 'devastated' by Fort Worth lawyer's forgery

FORT WORTH -- Nearly three years ago, Kristy Ward hired family law attorney Kimberly Ashley-Stevens to handle the adoption of her prospective son.

As instructed by Ashley-Stevens, Ward testified today, she obtained notarized statements from the baby's biological parents relinquishing their parental rights to the boy she wanted to adopt.

Ward said she was stunned earlier this year when she learned that her son's 2006 adoption was invalid because someone had forged her signature on a document that a family court judge relied on in terminating the biological parents' rights and granting the adoption.

"I was devastated," Ward testified. "I was scared. I wasn't sure what was going to occur."

Although Ward's adoption was later granted after volunteer attorneys redid the paperwork, Ward blames Ashley-Stevens for the actions she believed might have caused her to lose her son.

"I hired an attorney to help me, and she hurt me," Ward said.

Ward was the first witness in Ashley-Stevens' felony trial in Criminal District Court No. 3. The 40-year-old attorney is accused of fabricating physical evidence, tampering with a government record and passing a forged document to 324th District Judge Jerome Hennigan, who handled the Ward adoption.

If convicted, she could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison on one of the charges and two years on the other two charges.

In opening statements this morning, defense attorney Abe Factor said Ashley-Stevens did not know that Ward's signature had been forged on the document she gave the judge. He said Ashley-Stevens relied on another attorney who presented her with the signed document.

"Somebody took a shortcut," Factor said. "As the employer, Kim is responsible, but she's not criminally responsible."

The trial adjourned for the afternoon after testimony from Ward and another attorney in the case. Testimony will resume at 8:45 am. Friday before state District Judge Elizabeth Berry.