Bond set in Stair case | News | The Press and Standard
by The Press and Standard | February 1, 2018 5:00 am
Last Updated: January 31, 2018 at 10:29 am
Ralph Stair left the Colleton County Detention Center Jan. 25 headed for home after posting a $750,000 bond.
The religious leader of Overcomer Ministry, Stair appeared before 14th Circuit Court Judge Perry Buckner on Jan. 24 for a bond hearing on the eight criminal charges filed against him.
At the beginning of the bond hearing, Sean Thornton of the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office told Buckner that a pair of letters from two of Stair’s alleged victims who no longer live in the area and a third victim, who appeared at afternoon’s bond hearing, were asking the court to deny bond, expressing concern for any children residing at the compound.
Thornton said he realized that the chance of Stair being held without bond was unlikely. Because of that, Thornton requested the bond be set at $1 million and contain a variety of conditions.
Those conditions included Stair not having contact with any of the victims or their families; not having contact with anyone under 18 years of age; surrendering his passport; and wearing an electronic monitor.
Later in the hearing, Buckner said that the purpose of setting a bond was not to be punitive — its objective is to help ensure that the defendant will appear in court.
Requiring Stair to surrender his passport, restricting Stair to the Overcomers Ministry compound on Augusta Highway and wearing an electronic monitor, Buckner said, help ensure Stair will appear at court hearings.
Columbia attorney Jack Swerling, who joined Beaufort attorney Scott Lee on Stair’s defense team, requested Buckner set a bond of between $250,000 and $500,000, while agreeing with the other bond conditions put forth by Thornton.
Swerling pointed out that when Stair was arrested in 2002, he spent two years out on $500,000 bond without a violation and had forfeited his passport. Stair never had that passport returned, Swerling said, and had not obtained a new one since then.
He also suggested that the bond condition concerning Stair not having contact with anyone under 18 years old was not necessary, saying he had been told that there was no one under 18 living at the compound.
Buckner — after fine-tuning the bond conditions to allow Stair to leave the group’s religious compound at 12680 Augusta Highway for meetings with his attorneys and to seek emergency medical care — set Stair’s bond at $750,000.
The judge also stressed that the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office would have unfettered access to the Overcomers Ministry compound at all times as another requirement of the bond’s conditions.
While Stair was either seated or standing at the front of the courtroom, he periodically turned around and glanced at the rear of the courtroom, which contained many of the estimated 40 residents of the Overcomer Ministry compound.
Stair, 84, was taken into custody on eight criminal counts filed by the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office during a raid on the church compound the morning of Dec. 18.
The charges include three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and single counts of assault with the intent to commit criminal sexual conduct, kidnapping, second-degree assault, first-degree burglary, and third-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor.
After Stair was taken into custody and moved to the detention center, members of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Homeland Security took control of the compound to serve search warrants.
On the afternoon of Dec. 18 Stair’s first bond hearing before a Colleton County Magistrate ended when Lee waived bond for his client.