SAVANNAH, Ga. — Country singer Billy Currington pleaded no contest Friday to a charge stemming from a run-in with a 70-year-old tour boat captain who cruised past his $3.5 million waterfront home.
Currington, 39, pleaded no contest to a charge of abuse of an elderly person and was sentenced to five years of probation and a $1,000 fine. He was ordered to undergo anger-management counseling and have no contact with the boat caption.
In exchange, prosecutors agreed to drop a charge of making terroristic threats. Each count had carried a possible sentence of one to five years in prison upon conviction.
With Friday’s plea, Currington avoids a trial as he is working to promote his new album, We Are Tonight, which was released last week.
Police arrested Currington five months ago after tour boat captain Charles Harvey Ferrelle and two of his passengers called police to report a scary encounter with an irate man they later identified as Currington. They told police the singer jumped in his own boat with a camera, began chasing Ferrelle and threatened to “finish him off.” Prosecutors said video seized from the singer’s camera confirmed the tour captain’s story.
Both Currington and Ferrelle left the courthouse without speaking to reporters Friday.
The singer told a Savannah-Chatham County police detective he chased after the tour boat on April 15 because he was being harassed by Ferrelle and other boaters, who he said were gawking and taking photographs near the private dock of his home on Tybee Creek near Tybee Island.
Currington denied threatening anyone when police arrived at his house with a search warrant the following week. He told Rice his words to the tour boat captain were: “Please back the (expletive) off, man.”
Currington lives on a public waterway where the law requires boats passing within 100 feet of private docks to slow to idle speed.
Detective Alycia Rice wrote in her report that she was helping serve a search warrant at Currington’s home April 23 when the singer told her of Ferrelle: “I bet he’s a really nice guy. He’s just making a living off of me.”
Ferrelle and his passengers told police they had no clue who Currington was. They identified him from photographs shown to them by investigators.
But Currington told police his celebrity status was attracting unwanted tourists to his home. He complained he had asked the local police and the Coast Guard for help, with no success. Police reports say marine officers reviewed Currington’s photos and videos and even sent patrols to monitor traffic at his dock and found no one breaking the law.
Ferrelle told police Currington’s home sits along the route he normally takes while giving ecological tours off Tybee Island. He said he was cruising past the house when his two passengers said someone on the property was yelling at them and “flipping a double bird,” according to a police affidavit.
Ferrelle said he was floating with the current, far from the docks, but he throttled up and moved away when he saw the angry man. The tour boat captain told officers that when he passed by again on the return trip, Currington got in his own boat with a camera and chased him to the dock where Ferrelle keeps his tour boat.
Ferrelle and his passengers told police Currington pulled up to the dock, but didn’t get out of his boat. They said he called Ferrelle foul names and said, “I am going to (expletive) you up you mother (expletive) old man,” according to the police affidavit. It says Currington told Ferrelle that he and his brother would “catch him in the river” and “finish him off.”
Currington was quoted by The Tennessean newspaper in 2007 as saying that he sometimes struggled to control his anger as a result of suffering childhood abuse while growing up in Rincon, near Savannah. In the interview, conducted after he completed a 30-day trauma-recovery program in Arizona, Currington said a small part of him remained “hurt, sad and furious.”