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Ex-SC councilman illegally tried to buy gun after indictment on child sex charges

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The former chairman of Bamberg County Council faces up to 10 years in prison after he illegally tried to buy a gun while under indictment on child sex charges, according to court documents filed this week. File/Dreamstime

The former chairman of Bamberg County Council faces up to 10 years in prison after he illegally tried to buy a gun while under indictment on child sex charges, according to court documents filed this week.

Kerry Trent Kinard, 50, pleaded guilty in federal court on April 1 to lying on federal forms in his bid to purchase a Taurus G3 pistol on Dec. 3, 2020, just months after his arrest by the State Law Enforcement Division.

Kinard was out of jail on a $75,000 bond at the time.

While filling out those forms at a Columbia store, Kinard falsely answered "no" to questions asking whether he was currently under indictment for a felony charge and whether he had been issued a restraining order by a judge, he acknowledged in court Thursday.

A background check stopped Kinard from buying the gun.

Federal prosecutors are dismissing one of their two gun charges against Kinard in return for a guilty plea on the other one. In addition to prison time, Kinard faces a fine of up to $250,000 and three years of supervised release after any prison time he serves.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Elliott Daniels told District Judge Mary Geiger Lewis that Kinard had admitted to the gun crime during his phone calls from jail.

"I'm going to have to plead guilty," Kinard said over the phone, according to Daniels. "I did it."

Kinard's defense attorney, Bakari Sellers, told reporters Thursday that prosecutors are being "hyper aggressive" against his client. He said Kinard made a "mistake" but that federal agents typically issue only warnings to people who fill out their forms incorrectly when trying to purchase a gun.

During Thursday's court hearing, right before Kinard entered his guilty plea, two other defendants pleaded guilty to similar charges of lying on federal forms in order to purchase guns. Those defendants were accused of participating in a scheme to buy scores of guns for other people. They are awaiting sentencing, as well. 

Kinard was interested in the gun because it was on sale and because of threatening messages that had been posted on Facebook about him since his arrest in the child sex case, Sellers said.

SLED agents first arrested Kinard in September 2020 on charges of criminal sexual conduct with a minor, attempted criminal sexual conduct with a minor, assault and battery, and two counts each of criminal solicitation of a minor and dissemination of obscene material.

Investigators alleged that Kinard in September 2020 solicited an underage girl, showed her pornography and groped her.

Other charges date back as far as 2008. That's when Kinard began molesting a young boy and showing pornography to a child, according to SLED warrants.

Investigators also accused Kinard of trying to rape a young girl between 2016 and 2017 and soliciting an underage boy between 2017 and 2018.

Those charges, filed in state court, are still pending.

Kinard is being held at the Clarendon County Detention Center. He appeared in court Thursday wearing an orange jumpsuit and chains that bound his hands and jingled every time he moved.

He said little at the hearing, except for responding "yes, your honor, thank you" to Judge Lewis' questions about whether he understood the details of his guilty plea.

Kinard was already on his way out of office before the arrests. The retired state trooper and Air Force veteran had lost to challenger Phil Myers in the 2020 Democratic primary for his County Council seat.

Reach Avery Wilks at 803-374-3115. Follow him on Twitter at @AveryGWilks. Send tips to averywilks93@protonmail.com.

Projects reporter

Avery G. Wilks is an investigative reporter based in Columbia. The USC Honors College graduate was named the 2018 S.C. Journalist of the Year for his reporting on South Carolina's nuclear fiasco and abuses within the state's electric cooperatives.

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