Hilton Head Island Town Councilman Bill Ferguson pleaded guilty today to misdemeanor criminal domestic violence, a charge stemming from an argument with his wife at their home in January.
In a plea deal with the S.C. Attorney General’s Office, Ferguson will undergo anger-management counseling to avoid jail time and a fine. The maximum penalty for first-offense criminal domestic violence is 30 days in jail and a $5,000 fine.
During the hearing today in Magistrate Court in Beaufort, Ferguson was asked by the magistrate if he was pleading guilty to the crime.
“I am not guilty,” Ferguson said, adding that he had never hit his wife.
There was a pause in the courtroom. Ferguson then conferred with his attorney, William G. Jenkins Jr.
The magistrate asked the question again.
“Yes, I am guilty,” Ferguson responded.
As part of the deal, Ferguson can’t own or possess a firearm. Jenkins said Ferguson had gotten rid of the firearms from the incident.
Ferguson, 63, who has represented Ward 1 on Town Council since 1993, had been charged with felony high and aggravated criminal domestic violence, but the charge was reduced to misdemeanor criminal domestic violence Nov. 30 by the S.C. Attorney General’s Office, according to Stephanie Garst, administrator for the Beaufort County Magistrate Court.
Ferguson’s wife, Linda, a teacher at M.C. Riley Elementary School in Bluffton, also faces a pending charge of misdemeanor criminal domestic violence related to the incident, according to Garst.
Linda Ferguson said at the hearing that she agreed with the plea deal.
Bill and Linda Ferguson both declined comment after the hearing.