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Lockup's the Best Medicine?

Family of an O.C. woman accused of a cruise-ship threat won't pay her bail.

May 02, 2003|Mai Tran and Scott Martelle | Times Staff Writers

HONOLULU — Invoking a tough-love approach to a daughter accused of a high-seas terrorist threat, a Laguna Hills family refused to help her with bail Thursday, and a federal judge here ordered Kelley Marie Ferguson held without bond.

Debra Ferguson, the woman's mother and only family member remaining in Hawaii, didn't speak during a detention hearing in a Honolulu federal courtroom. But earlier in the day she told The Times that leaving Ferguson in jail would impress upon her that "this is serious."

"She's just going to have to stay in jail and learn her lesson," the mother said. "This was a big, big problem, and if she has to sit in jail -- oh well. She's going to have to deal with it."

In tones that varied from bitterness to anguish, the mother said she had rejected suggestions that the family arrange bail. She said she could not "risk the rest of my family's life because of a brat" by posting bail, even if a judge would grant it.

"She's going to run ... and we're going to be left with a $25,000 debt," said the mother, 49, a nurse. "I'm not a millionaire.... She promises not to do it again -- but yeah, right."

Ferguson, 20, an unemployed one-time waitress, is the youngest of four daughters of Debra and Tim Ferguson, owner of a Mission Viejo auto repair shop. She was arrested Saturday and charged with two counts of making a terrorist threat after allegedly leaving notes promising to "kill all Americanos abord" the cruise ship on which she and her family were vacationing.

Coast Guard Tab

Authorities say she has confessed to committing the hoax in an attempt to force the ship back to its Ensenada starting point so she could return to her boyfriend.

The threats led the ship to divert from a scheduled stop in Hilo on Hawaii's Big Island and anchor off Pearl Harbor, near Honolulu on Oahu, where it was boarded in a rough sea and searched by 120 federal and local agents.

That response cost the U.S. Coast Guard alone $336,000, assistant U.S. Atty. Ken Sorenson said Thursday, adding that the costs for other agencies involved had not been tallied. He said if Ferguson is found guilty the government could seek restitution, but "it doesn't look like the defendant has the ready ability to come up with that kind of money."

Sorenson also said the ship's owner, Miami-based Royal Caribbean, could also try to sue Ferguson for damages. Royal Caribbean officials could not be reached for comment.

In court Thursday, Ferguson's lawyer, federal public defender Loretta Faymonville told the judge she would not oppose the prosecutor's motion to deny bail.

Sorenson argued against bail, citing what he called Ferguson's "immaturity, instability and insensitivity." He also said that if freed, Ferguson was likely to reunite with boyfriend Joshua Brashear, who Sorenson said would create an unsuitable "environment" for the young woman.

Federal Judge Kevin S.C. Chang agreed and asked Ferguson if she understood what had been said. She said yes twice, speaking softly with her hands on her lap, Faymonville sitting to her left. Chang then ordered Ferguson to remain in custody.

U.S. Atty. Edward H. Kubo Jr. said outside the courthouse that he had yet to see an indication that Ferguson was taking the situation seriously, and supported the family's decision not to help her make bail.

"She is not yet at that point where she is taking responsibility," he said.

Back in Orange County, Brashear on Thursday denied that he is a bad influence on Ferguson and said he believed the descriptions of him in court reflected a dislike for him felt by her parents. Brashear said he encouraged Ferguson to join the family on the cruise, the culmination of two years of planning by Ferguson's father, who wanted to take his family on a last vacation together before the daughters moved more fully into their own lives.

'Once in a Lifetime Trip'

"I told her she should go because this was a once-in-a-lifetime trip on a Hawaii cruise," Brashear said, adding that "of course I feel bad" about Ferguson's arrest, but does not feel responsible for her actions. "She's 20 years old," he said. "She can do what she wants."

According to Orange County court records, which also identify him as Joshua Jason Trybula, Brashear pleaded guilty to a cocaine-possession charge in May 1998 and was sentenced to 90 days in Orange County Jail plus three years' probation.

While on probation in August 1999, Brashear was caught allegedly trying to steal 12 CDs from a Costa Mesa music shop, the court records said.

He also failed to report to his probation officer, and in September 2000 was jailed for another 90 days. While Brashear was in jail, he called Ferguson collect daily, running up a $1,500 phone bill for the Fergusons, the father said.

Ferguson has her own history of minor legal scrapes.

She was twice cited for misdemeanor loitering on public property in 1996, and an arrest warrant was issued when she failed to show up for court, records said.

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