Ashley Ferguson was given a signature bond Wednesday instead of a cash bail, in part, because she will serve as a witness for the prosecution against two men with whom she is accused of participating in a robbery scheme.
During her preliminary hearing before Court Commissioner Alice A. Rudebusch, Ferguson entered a not guilty plea in Racine County Circuit Court for her part in a robbery scheme that started on a dating website.
According to the criminal complaint, Ferguson, 21, of Kenosha, met a man on the Plenty of Fish dating website. First, they met Nov. 9 at the Brat Stop on Highway 50 in Kenosha, and the man said he gave Ferguson - whom he knew as Autumn - $350 she asked to borrow.
After texting back and forth all day, the man told police "Autumn" said she would meet him outside in his truck. When he got to his truck, officers say he got another text telling him to come back inside the lobby.
Instead of getting the date he was promised, though, the man was robbed of his keys, his phone and about $150 in cash at gunpoint by two other men. Mount Pleasant police reported they were able to get a description from the man of the suspects, the gun that was used, and a car that could have been at the scene.
Officers at 3:15 a.m. pulled over a vehicle matching the man's statement with Ferguson and Delante Higgenbottom, 36, inside. Officers also found a silver handgun that matched the man's description, as well as hats and earmuffs that fit the account the man told police.
Ferguson was found with a cell phone with the number from which the man said he received text messages, the complaint reads. She told police she was in Milwaukee with Higgenbottom from about 8 p.m.to 1 a.m. Additonal cell phone data, however, contradicted her account, since the text messages she was sending used the cell tower near her home in Kenosha and Higgenbottom's signals were clearly coming from Mount Pleasant.
When investigators interviewed Ferguson, she admitted she knew Higgenbottom, but said the robbery scheme was his idea.
According to police reports, the original plan was for Ferguson to prostitute herself. After she made contact with the man she met on Plenty of Fish and told Higgenbottom she didn't want to go through with it, he devised the robbery plan instead with another man, Tramell Grier from Milwaukee.
At Ferguson's preliminary hearing Wednesday, Defense Attorney Katie Gutowski requested that her client's $5,000 cash bail be converted to a signature bond and that she would wear a GPS monitoring unit her mother would pay for.
"Her mother is willing to pay for the GPS," Gutowski told the court. "Additionally, my client has a 3-year-old who is staying with her sister."
Assistant District Attorney Randall Schneider had no objection.
"The state agrees because she is a witness against other defendants in this case," he said.
Ferguson will be on house arrest and only allowed to leave to come to court and meet with her lawyer. She will next be in court for a pre-trial hearing on April 12.
Higgenbottom had his initial appearance Monday. He remains at the Racine County Jail on a $25,000 cash bond. His preliminary hearing is March 6.
A $25,000 warrant was issued on Feb. 21 for Grier's arrest.