Originally created 07/15/06

Former leader out on bond



AIKEN - Former Aiken County Councilman Russ Ferrara was released from jail Friday, one day after he was arrested on charges that he fondled a tenant and tried to get her to provide sex in exchange for rent.

It was the second time in just over a year that Mr. Ferrara, 47, spent a night in jail and then stood in an Aiken County courtroom for a bond hearing.

In June 2005 he was charged with fondling a 13-year-old girl at an Aiken mobile home. That time, he was released from jail on his own recognizance. This time, bond was set at nearly $22,000.

Mr. Ferrara has also been placed on house arrest and must wear an ankle bracelet to monitor his whereabouts at all times.

"I asked for no bond," Assistant Solicitor Brenda Brisbin said. "I would have preferred that, but I'm glad he has the house arrest order. That's the next best thing."

Mr. Ferrara, an ex-Savannah River Site engineer, was arrested Thursday and charged with assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature, solicitation of prostitution, indecent exposure and disseminating obscenities.

Aiken County sheriff's authorities say that since April 1, Mr. Ferrara has repeatedly fondled the 23-year-old woman who'd been renting an apartment from him. He also asked for sex in lieu of rent, exposed himself to her and showed her an obscene photograph on a cell phone, according to the sheriff's office.

Mr. Ferrara's attorney, Andy Anderson, would not comment.

Ms. Brisbin said that Mr. Ferrara has shown indications that he's a sexual predator and is a flight risk. He told the young woman who is making the latest allegations that if she reported him to police, "he'd run because he's already facing 15 years" on the old charges, Ms. Brisbin said.

Mr. Ferrara threatened to evict the young woman if she did not have sex with him, Ms. Brisbin said, but on Friday Judge Charles T. Carter ordered that the woman be allowed to retrieve her belongings from the apartment, so an eviction hearing will not be necessary.

Mr. Ferrara was ordered to have no contact with his former tenant, and he cannot leave his home on the 100 block of Fox Lea Trail except to go to church or see his attorney.

"Both of his victims are some of the most vulnerable members of the community," Ms. Brisbin said.

In last year's case, the teen girl told authorities she went to the mobile home to paint it for Mr. Ferrara, who had offered to rent it to her mother.

After arriving, however, she said he locked the door and assaulted her.

Ms. Brisbin said she does not believe the new charges will affect the case involving the young teen.

Reach Sandi Martin at (803) 648-1395, ext. 111, or sandi.martin@augustachronicle.com.