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Elgin Councilman Ernst charged with vandalism

Posted: January 31, 2013 5:11 p.m.
Updated: February 1, 2013 5:00 a.m.
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Elgin Town Councilman Bubba Ernst

Elgin Town Councilman Norman Allen “Bubba” Ernst spent a few hours behind bars Wednesday after being arrested for vandalism following a dispute over a lease agreement.

According to a Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) press release, Ernst, 41, and the operator of a gun range located on Ernst’s property began having a dispute about the lease agreement in December.

“Ernst had complained to the gun range operator that noise from the range was interfering with his business and he wanted the range to close down,” Kershaw County Sheriff Jim Matthews said in the release. “However, Ernst had signed a lease agreement with full knowledge that the property would be used for a gun range. The gun range operator refused to close the business.”

Ernst reportedly obtained an eviction notice which was served on the range operator. The operator reported five other acts of vandalism to the KCSO that allegedly occurred prior to and during the eviction process.

The KCSO said a member of the shooting range witnessed two men causing damage to the gun range some time on Saturday. That witness later picked Ernst out of a S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) photo lineup. Wednesday, the KCSO arrested Ernst on a warrant, charging him with malicious injury to property. 

Matthews noted in the press release that Ernst has previous arrests dating back to 2001, several of which were dismissed.

In June 2001, the KCSO arrested Ernst and his wife on various charges alleging that they provided two teenage girls with alcohol and illegal drugs in the couple’s home, then took nude photographs of them and posted them on the Internet. An arrest warrant was issued after one of the girl’s fathers filed a complaint. Deputies executed the warrant and found the nude photographs, seven grams of cocaine and a small amount of marijuana at the Ernsts’ home, according to a Chronicle-Independent account of the arrests.

Ernst and his wife were charged with two counts each of contributing to the delinquency of a minor; two counts each of sexual exploitation of a minor; and one count each of violating the computer crime act, possession with intent to distribute cocaine and simple possession of marijuana.

A combination of online and printed Kershaw County Courthouse records show that one each of the delinquency charges, both exploitation charges and the computer crime act violation charges were dismissed on Oct. 17, 2003. There were no records indicating any disposition on the simple possession of marijuana charges.

That same day, Ernst and his wife each pled guilty to the remaining count of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and possession with intent to distribute cocaine. They were each sentenced to 10 years in prison for the cocaine distribution charges and three years on the delinquency charges to run concurrently. Both their sentences were suspended to three years probation.

Ernst first served on Elgin Town Council from 1995 to 1999, running unsuccessfully against Paul Grooms for the mayor’s seat in 1999. Elgin residents returned him to town council in 2011.

“He will have his day in court,” Mayor Brad Hanley said of Ernst’s latest arrest. “We went through this before when one of the council members was charged with a DUI, but there have to be some extreme circumstances for anybody to be removed from council and our council does not have that power. We have to wait for the legal system to run its course.”

Ernst left jail Wednesday after being released on a $1,092.50 personal recognizance bond, according to Kershaw County Detention Center intake officers.

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