Sheriff: Judge let accused child molester out of jail by mistake - - Columbia, South Carolina

Sheriff: Judge let accused child molester out of jail by mistake

By Jordan Sandler - bio | email

NEWBERRY, SC (WIS) - An accused child molester is on the streets. Newberry County deputies say he needs to be in jail, but they can't find him.

The sheriff says it's all because of a bad call from the judge.

"He needs to be in jail," said Sheriff Lee Foster.

It's déjà vu for Foster's deputies. They arrested John Ussery on Saturday, and now they're looking for him again.

"Equally frustrating that we've got to pull investigators off other cases to find the guy again," said Foster.

The accused child molester got a get-out-of jail free card seemingly by mistake.

"Doesn't sit right with me," Foster said.

Foster says the 25-year-old was staying with a family in Newberry last Friday night. Left alone to babysit the kids, Ussery allegedly took a bath with the family's eight-year-old daughter and sexually assaulted her.

Deputies arrested him the next day.

"The penalty can carry life imprisonment," said Foster.

But Ussery was only behind bars for about 12 hours. Sunday morning, a magistrate court judge granted him a personal recognizance bond. He didn't have to pay a penny, and he got to walk out the door. His only requirement was to show up for court in January.

"Proper procedure wasn't followed," said Foster.

Foster says Ussery should have never been seen in the magistrate court. South Carolina law says Ussery's charge is non-bondable, and he needed to be seen by a circuit court.  

The magistrate judge who released Ussery on the P.R. bond is Tom Abraham. He was out of the office Friday and was unavailable for comment.

"I don't know what he based his theory on in going against what the law is," said Foster.

To get Ussery to a circuit court, deputies have to find him in person and hand him papers. But since Ussery has already technically faced a judge, Foster says deputies cannot re-arrest him.

The sheriff says if his deputies can find Ussery and hand him a court order, it would still be another week before Ussery would have to show up at the circuit court.
Foster says the victim's family is very disappointed with the situation.

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