Prosecutor balks at delay, says ex-Chester County sheriff should go to prison




  • In US
  • 2022-10-04 19:54:26Z
  • By Rock Hill Herald
 

A federal prosecutor has balked at an attempt by ex-Chester County Sheriff Alex nderwood to remain free from a 46-month prison sentence, court documents show.

The prosecutor said in court documents filed Tuesday that Underwood, known as "Big A," was proven in trial to be guilty of misusing money and other violations. The prosecutor wants Underwood sent to prison by next week, documents show.

Underwood and former deputy Johnny Neal were supposed to report to prison Sept. 15 to start 46-54 month sentences. But a federal judge gave each a one-month reprieve until Oct. 14, after defense lawyers asked for a bond as they appeal the convictions.

Former deputy Robert Sprouse, sentenced to 24-30 months, reported to federal prison around Sept. 1.

William Miller, the assistant U.S. Attorney from Washington D.C. who prosecuted Underwood and the two former top deputies in a 2021 jury trial, said in court documents Underwood stole public money and then tried to cover up his crimes.

"Rather than faithfully execute the duties of his office, Underwood and defendants Robert Sprouse and Johnny Neal repeatedly misused their positions with the sheriff's office to illegally benefit themselves and cover up their misdeeds," Miller wrote in a court filing Tuesday.

Underwood, Sprouse and Neal were convicted in 2021 in federal court and sentenced in July.

Corruption convictions

Underwood, 59, was elected sheriff in 2012 and 2016. He was indicted in 2019 and suspended from office.

He was convicted on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, federal program theft, falsifying records, and an attempted cover up and unlawful arrest of a Chester County man in 2018, court records show.

Underwood claimed innocence before and after the trial despite the convictions. In an appeal of the convictions, Underwood claimed that an expert witness who testified during the 2021 trial was restricted from fully testifying during the trial.

Yet prosecutors say in court records that Underwood received a fair trial and was convicted because he was guilty.

Miller called Underwood "a crook and a bully" during sentencing in July. Miller said in the court filing Underwood defrauded the public with his schemes and abused his authority as the highest ranking law enforcement officer in Chester County.

Underwood was convicted of stealing federal DUI checkpoint enforcement money that should have gone to deputies, and forcing deputies to work on a man-cave party barn at his home, Miller said in the court filing.

Underwood also was convicted of falsely arresting a man after the former sheriff confronted the man doing a Facebook Live video. The arrest was covered up with false reports and lies to the FBI, according to court testimony and documents.

Chester County is a mainly rural South Carolina county of around 32,000 people between Rock Hill and Columbia.

What happens now?

Underwood and Neal, 42, remain free pending a judicial ruling on whether each will stay free on bail as their appeals move forward. Federal Judge Joseph Anderson is expected to rule by Oct. 14 on whether Underwood and Neal must report to prison, court documents show.

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