Prosecutors accuse suspended Chester Co Sheriff of trying to intimidate witnesses in federal criminal case

Suspended sheriff appears in federal court, faces new allegations

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WBTV) - Federal prosecutors accused now-suspended Chester County Sheriff Alex Underwood of having contacted witnesses in his criminal case in an attempt to intimidate them.

The claim was made during Underwood’s first appearance in federal court on Tuesday morning.

Underwood, his former chief deputy and a lieutenant at the sheriff’s office were indicted earlier this month on charges related to an arrest of a man sitting on his porch in November. The man’s mother was also later arrested.

Related: Chester County sheriff suspended after being indicted on federal charges

The indictment accuses the men of illegally arrested Kevin Simpson and his mother, Ernestine, just days before Thanksgiving in November 2018, making them sit in jail and then attempting to fabricate evidence to cover up an illegal search of the Simpsons’ home.

Underwood, his former chief deputy Robert Sprouse and Lieutenant Johnny Neal each pleaded not guilty in court on Tuesday.

They were each allowed to leave court on a personal recognizance bond.

Related: Former deputy details culture of fear, retaliation and intimidation under Alex Underwood

As a condition of their release, the men had to surrender their passports, are not allowed to possess any weapons and cannot contact anyone employed at the Chester County Sheriff’s Office.

The last condition came at the request of prosecutors, who said there had been allegations that Underwood and Sprouse had contacted employees at the sheriff’s office in an attempt to intimidate or otherwise interfere with the ongoing case.

Outside of the courthouse, Underwood’s attorney Stanley Myers denied the allegations. Myers called the charges against Underwood an attack on law enforcement and said his client’s version of the truth would come out on the witness stand.

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