COLUMBIA S.C. (WBTV) - Federal prosecutors say plea negotiations are ongoing in the federal criminal case against former Chester County Sheriff Alex Underwood, his chief deputy and a lieutenant at the office.
The three men were indicted in May on charges stemming from an arrest, use of force and search of a Chester County man and his mother days before Thanksgiving last year.
Prosecutors allege Underwood unlawfully arrested Kevin Simpson—who was streaming a manhunt happening in front of his house live on Facebook when Underwood took him into custody—and then assaulted him once in handcuffs. Underwood, his chief deputy, Robert Sprouse, and the lieutenant later searched Simpson’s home and arrested his mother, Ernestine.
The trio have been charged with depriving Simpson of his rights, conspiracy, and charges related to tampering with evidence and lying to the FBI.
All three have pleaded not guilty.
Last week, prosecutors and defense attorneys filed a joint motion asking a judge to delay an upcoming hearing and trial for the men, both of which were scheduled for early July.
The motion asked a judge to postpone the trial until January 2020.
Among the reasons the attorneys asked for the trial to be pushed back was because of the volume of evidence in the case and because the parties are involved in ongoing plea negotiations.
In asking for the case to be pushed back, the motion alluded to the possibility that one or more of the defendants could plead guilty before the case went to trial.
“Additionally, the parties are involved in plea negotiations and a continuance along this extended schedule will allow them time to complete plea negotiations and possibly resolve this matter without the necessity of a trial,” the motion said.
Underwood and his two deputies were suspended from office following the indictment.
At a court appearance in May, prosecutors accused the defendants of taking steps to try and intimidate witnesses in the case.
Specifically, prosecutors 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.
After that hearing, an attorney for Underwood denied the allegations and called the case against the suspended sheriff an attack on law enforcement.