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Terror Hoaxer Pleads Guilty, and Rocks Boat Again

O.C. woman accused of threatening a cruise ship says she's pregnant, stunning her family.

May 16, 2003|Scott Martelle and Mai Tran | Times Staff Writers

The strange case of a Laguna Hills woman accused of leaving hoax-threat letters aboard a Hawaiian cruise ship swerved sharply Thursday when she pleaded guilty and told a federal court she is seven months' pregnant -- a claim that stuns her family.

Kelley Marie Ferguson, 20, pleaded guilty in Honolulu to one count of issuing a false threat to kill passengers on a vehicle of mass transportation. A second count was dropped.

Ferguson was ordered freed on $5,000 bail and will be placed under house arrest in the custody of her parents in Laguna Hills, said federal public defender Loretta Faymonville. She faces a maximum of 20 years in prison but under federal sentencing guidelines will probably be ordered to serve one to two years when sentenced Sept. 22 in Honolulu, Faymonville said.

As a condition of bail, Ferguson also cannot make contact with her boyfriend, Joshua Brashear, whom Faymonville said Ferguson has identified as the baby's father. Brashear could not be reached for comment.

By then, Ferguson's baby will probably have been born; Faymonville said Ferguson believes she has been pregnant for seven months but that she has not had prenatal care or examinations. Assistant U.S. Atty. Ken Sorenson said no one yet knows how far the pregnancy has progressed. "I don't think we believe she is that far along," Sorenson said.

Ferguson, who had reluctantly accompanied her parents on a cruise aboard the Legend of the Seas, was arrested April 25 after two threatening notes were found in a restroom. The ship was diverted to an offshore mooring near Honolulu, then searched.

Ferguson told investigators she left the notes hoping they would cut the cruise short and let her return to her boyfriend, who was described in court as a bad influence on her because of a criminal history, including a drug conviction.

Ferguson's family learned of the pregnancy in a telephone conversation with Faymonville a week and a half ago.

"I was absolutely shocked," said father Tim Ferguson, adding that his daughter wore a bathing suit during the cruise without alerting any suspicions among them. "Maybe that's why she wanted to go home."

Legal complications could result if Brashear is the baby's father, since Ferguson is barred from seeing him under the release order. Sorenson and Faymonville said Brashear probably would have rights to see the baby but would have to do so without Ferguson being present.

Tim Ferguson said he has mixed feelings of happiness and concern about her coming home.

"She didn't mean to hurt anyone," he said.

Ferguson's mother could not be reached, but she had earlier expressed deep reservations about whether her daughter was responsible enough to meet bail conditions. The family earlier declined to post bail or take responsibility for her.

Said Sorenson: "She's kind of changed her mind with this pregnancy thing."

Another change, he said, involves Ferguson herself.

More than 100 law-enforcement officials and bomb-sniffing dogs boarded in rough seas to search the ship. After Ferguson was arrested and confessed to investigators, federal officials were angry that she didn't appear to understand how serious the situation was.

She does now, Sorenson said Thursday.

"It seems to be dawning on her," he said.

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