Chester Co. sheriff takes the stand in his civil trial

Chester Co. sheriff takes the stand in his civil trial

CHESTER COUNTY, SC (WBTV) - The sheriff of Chester County says he didn't have sex with one of his employees after he took the office in 2013. Sheriff Alex Underwood took the stand to defend himself in a civil suit filed by a former Major, Mary Anne Tolbert.

Tolbert alleges she had unwanted sex with her boss 18 times because she was afraid she would lose her job.

On Thursday, the jury will begin deliberations after they hear the closing arguments. Wednesday testimony ended after Sheriff Underwood testified.

Mary Anne Tolbert testified Monday that while she was working she had unwanted sex with Sheriff Underwood 18 times. She couldn't remember the dates for all the incidents, but remembered locations. On the stand, the first few questions from Underwood's own lawyers were about the allegations.

The defense lawyer asked, "Since you became sheriff have you ever had sex with Mary Anne Tolbert?"

Underwood answered, "No, sir I have not. I was surprised by the whole thing. It's just been a mess."

Underwood said he was a little mad when he learned Tolbert brought these allegations after he selected another person to be Chief Deputy in the Chester County Sheriff's office. He says when he made the announcement after the meeting, Tolbert ran out of the room and he didn't see her. He says he was highly disappointed because Tolbert was someone he trusts.

He confirmed that about ten years ago he had a sexual friendship with Tolbert, but as of 2013 after he became Sheriff they did not have sex. Underwood also told the jury about himself how he originally started in law enforcement in Chester County and then moved up to SLED, ran his own private security company and then became sheriff. He said he ran for sheriff because a lot of people in the community asked him to run and he wanted to give back.

Sheriff Underwood got choked up when he explained how he faced threats once he became sheriff and how someone poisoned his dogs. To be clear, he said Mary Anne Tolbert the accuser in this case had never threatened him.

The sheriff also talked about the actual job of managing the Sheriff's office. He said he would ride along with everyone to get an opportunity to know them better and to give everyone input into the agency.

He was asked if he ever treated Tolbert differently than other employees and did he ever demeaned her in front of others, he responded no.

There was sexually graphic testimony after Underwood's lawyer asked Underwood about his genitalia. Tolbert had testified that she had noticed a change from ten years ago when they were in a consensual sexual relationship compared to when she said the Sheriff was forcing her to have sex. Underwood disputed that there was any change.

On cross examination, Tolbert's lawyer questioned Underwood about his selection of Chief Deputy and whether he interviewed anyone. The sheriff said he didn't do formal interviews he liked to do on-the-job interviews. He said he was looking for someone who understood all the departments within the sheriff's office and someone everyone respected. Tolbert's lawyer asked him to read her application and asked him to compare her education to the person who was selected for the Chief Deputy job. He believed they both had 15 years experience.

Then she challenged the Sheriff to name all the deputies he rode along with regularly and which ones he took to his house and to the hunt club while they were on the clock. The Sheriff did give names. She also asked him whether he would check on a property he had a key to even if someone did make the request.

"I wouldn't have any reason to be there," Underwood answered.

"Wouldn't have any reason to be there, would you?" lawyer Malissa Burnette repeated.

Burnette was referring to two of their witnesses, Ellen Hare and Andre Williams. Both testified that they had given keys to their homes to Underwood. Tolbert alleges Hare and Williams' homes are a couple of the many locations where Underwood took her to have sex.

At the beginning of this trial, Tolbert was suing both Sheriff Underwood personally and the government office in the position he holds. Wednesday, Judge Dan Hall told the jury the case is now just Tolbert versus Underwood personally. He dropped the case against the Chester County Sheriff's office.


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