He lied while trying to buy a gun. Now, former SC trooper, councilman gets prison time

Kerry Trent Kinard, a former South Carolina Highway Patrol trooper, Bamberg County councilman and Jasper County magistrate, was sentenced Wednesday to 18 months in prison Wednesday for lying on an application at a gun store to buy a pistol.

Kinard, 50, was sentenced by U.S. Judge Mary Lewis during an hour-long hearing at the federal courthouse in downtown Columbia.

“If I could give you more, I would,” said Lewis, who also gave Kinard a $5,500 fine and required him to undergo a mental examination.

Lewis said she decided to give Kinard the maximum sentence that she could because he had disobeyed judicial orders to stay away from his spouse in an alleged domestic violence situation and to not possess firearms.

“When a court says you got to do (something), you got to do it,” Lewis said. “You have a judge who says you don’t need to have a gun, and then you go out and try to buy a gun.”

She also praised the federal gun safety law — which requires a background check for handgun purchasers — for preventing Kinard from buying a gun.

“Some people should not have guns, and I think you are one of them,” Lewis said. “There is a reason why certain people in certain circumstances should not have access to weapons.”

Kinard’s wife, also at the hearing, told the judge that she and her children “have a huge fear of having him harming others and himself... My heart sunk when I heard the news he was trying to get his hands on a gun.”

Calling Kinard “a professional liar who craves attention,” she said that he used to tell her “where on his family’s property he was going to put me... It is frightful to think what would have happened if the gun laws were not in place. Please make his punishment hard so he will realize his actions belong to him.”

Last December, Kinard tried to buy a pistol at a Columbia-area gun store and filled out an application in which he falsely swore that he was neither under a felony indictment nor restraining order.

His attempt to purchase a Taurus 9 mm handgun at Sportsman’s Warehouse 155 on Piney Grove Road was unsuccessful.

It is against federal law for people who are charged with felony crimes or under restraining orders to buy a handgun from a federally licensed firearms dealer.

Commercial gun stores, federally licensed firearms dealers, are required to get basic information from prospective buyers, including data from driver’s licenses and whether they have been indicted or convicted on felony charges. They must also query an FBI database about whether the prospective purchaser has outstanding felony charges or a restraining order.

If no answer is received, the gun shop must delay the purchase for three days.

At the time Kinard tried to buy the handgun, he was facing felony charges of first-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor, attempted criminal sexual contact with a minor, two counts of criminal solicitation of a minor, first-degree assault and battery and two counts of dissemination of obscene material.

The charges stem from incidents between 2008 and September 2020, according to the S.C. Law Enforcement Division, which had arrested Kinard.

Kinard also was under a restrainIng order brought by his spouse, according to an ATF affidavit. A state judge had put the order in place to stop Kinard “from committing further acts of abuse or threats of abuse” against his spouse, the affidavit said.

When Kinard tried to buy the gun, the gun store received no answer to its query and did not proceed with the sale. Soon afterwards, SLED and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives got involved. Kinard was arrested the next day.

A sentencing memo in the case, written by assistant U.S. Attorney Elliott Daniels, said, the “defendant lived as if the rules didn’t apply to him.”

“Despite holding numerous positions of public trust, according to two state grand juries, his sexual abuse of children lasted for years, and a South Carolina Family Court determined his violence towards an intimate partner warranted a protective order,” Daniels wrote.

In court on Wednesday, Daniels elaborated, telling Lewis that South Carolina’s domestic violence rate is among the highest in the nation and to allow someone like Kinard to have a gun should be out of the question.

“You can’t take a chance,” Daniels said. What makes Kinard’s crime of lying on his application to buy a gun worse is that he tried to obstruct the ATF investigation into the failed purchase.

Kinard’s lawyer, Bakari Sellers, told the judge that Kinard has not been tried yet and there is another side to the “sensationalized novel” presented by the prosecution.

“He was never a danger to anyone because he wore an ankle monitor,” Sellers told the judge, adding that most people who put false information on a gun application are given a second chance and not sent to prison.

After the hearing, Sellers told reporters that Kinard was trying to buy the gun for two reasons — it was for sale and he had received some online threats.

Kinard’s trial on the state charges is scheduled to start on Nov. 29, Sellers said.

Kinard, who was denied bond after being arrested on the gun violation last December, has been in jail 10 months. Kinard will get credit for the time served and spend the remainder of Lewis’s 18-month sentence in federal prison. Lewis asked Kinard if he had any comment but he chose not to speak.

Making false statements on an application to buy a gun carries a potential maximum charge of 10 years. But because Kinard has no criminal history — he has yet to be tried on the state charges against him — federal sentencing guidelines limited Lewis to a much lower sentence.

Kinard, an Air Force veteran, was a police officer with the Allendale police force and a S.C. Highway Patrol trooper. He also served as Jasper County magistrate before gaining a seat on the Bamberg County Council in 2012. He also was sports information director at University of South Carolina-Salkehatchie. He lost a bid for re-election to the county council last year.

He pleaded guilty to the gun charge last April.