Bond set at $2,000 for Atlantic Beach mayor in assault case

troot@thesunnews.comMay 14, 2013 

— Atlantic Beach’s Mayor Retha Pierce told a magistrate setting her bail Tuesday that the assault charge filed against after an incident that involved two people – one of whom is a Town Council member, was “made up.”

Bail was set at $2,000 cash or surety Tuesday for Pierce, who surrendered to police Monday to face a charge of assault stemming from the incident that, according to an incident report from Atlantic Beach police, involved Town Council member Carolyn Cole and a television reporter, according to authorities.

A warrant for Pierce’s arrest was issued Friday on a charge of third-degree assault and battery related to an incident that occurred April 8, said Sgt. Jeff Benton with the Horry County Sheriff’s Office. The charge is a misdemeanor and if convicted, Pierce faces up to 30 days in jail or a $2,000 fine.

During her bond hearing Tuesday morning, Pierce told Magistrate Chris Arakas that “this is made up” regarding the assault charge.

The 63-year-old also said she was going to obtain an arrest warrant against one of the two victims in the case, but did not specify which one because Arakas asked Pierce multiple times to not talk during the hearing while he was speaking. Arakas threatened to hold Pierce in contempt of court and sentence her to 30 days in jail if she continued to interrupt him during the hearing.

When given an opportunity to speak, Pierce told Arakas she didn’t understand what he meant by no contact with the victims because she would likely be presiding over an Atlantic Beach Town Council meeting with one of the victims.

“That’s your business, you will be OK there,” Arakas said and noted he was unsure why there were two victims listed in the incident, but only one assault charge. The incident report also said Pierce threatened to hit Brianna Smith from WPDE. The report said Smith picked up her tripod and microphone and backed away from Pierce.Pierce sat during the hearing in a wheelchair with a pink cast on her left foot and wore an orange dress suit, similar to the color of the jumpsuits provided by jail staff at J. Reuben Long Detention Center.

Arakas asked Pierce about her previous criminal record, which includes a 2011 conviction for resisting arrest. Pierce told him politics were involved in that conviction and she had appealed the case.

“Unfortunately, it’s going to be a while before I can get that taken off [her criminal record],” Pierce said. “I will get that taken care of.”

Atlantic Beach’s lone police officer, Sgt. John Jackson, signed the warrant in the most recent case, which was transferred to the Horry County Sheriff’s Office, Benton said Sunday.

According to the warrant the incident happened at the Atlantic Beach Community Center where Atlantic Beach Town Council and other town committees conduct their meetings.

In the warrant, the victim told police Pierce committed the “assault on the victim by shoving the victim and then threw water on the victim.”

Pierce has faced other criminal charges.

Pierce was found guilty in July 2011 of resisting arrest and ordered to serve 18 months probation for an incident on Christmas Day 2007.

In March 2011, a Marion County judge dismissed a September 2009 driving under the influence charge. Pierce also was arrested on hit-and-run charges in an April 2010 incident and trespassing charges in January 2010. Those charges also were dropped.

A charge of driving under the influence filed by Conway police on Jan. 9, 2012, and is pending, according to Horry County court records. Pierce had requested a jury trial on the charge. It is unclear when that trial will be scheduled.

At the time of that arrest, Pierce said she was set up and officials were conspiring against her because of her position in the town of Atlantic Beach.

She remains mayor as a result of pending appeals of a special election nearly a year ago in which Councilman Jake Evans defeated her by a vote of 79 to 5. He can’t be sworn in until the appeals are settled.

Contact TONYA ROOT at 444-1723 or follow her at Twitter.com/tonyaroot.

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