COLUMBIA, S.C. (WBTV) - Former Chester County Sheriff Alex Underwood said he is not guilty to new charges against him on Tuesday in federal court.
Those new charges accuse him, former chief deputy Robert Sprouse and former sheriff’s office lieutenant Johnny Neal of using their positions to intimidate others in the department, using county money to take their families on vacations and using on-duty deputies to do manual labor at their homes.
These are additional charges to the ones that the three men already face where they’re accused of falsifying police reports and unjustly arresting people after a traffic accident in November of 2018.
The federal government alleges this all happened while Underwood served as sheriff.
But after the arraignment, Alex Underwood’s lawyer told reporters that the accusations are either wrong or taken out of context and he says Underwood is excited to prove that during a court trial.
“A lot of this is about context, and we hope a trial brings the contextual issues together,” said Stanley Myers, the attorney representing the former sheriff.
The indictment accuses Underwood and Sprouse of using county money to take their families on vacations to Nevada and New Orleans.
“Since that budget, there have been two budget cycles, two audit cycles. No one found anything, all of a sudden they’re alleging he did something wrong and we just don’t see it," said Myers.
But Underwood’s attorney says those allegations stem from Underwood taking his wife on an approved business conference trip.
“When asked about it, he paid whatever he thought he needed to and that’s what he did all along,” said Myers.
Underwood is also accused of using on-duty deputies for manual labor, including yard work and repairing a barn according to the indictment.
“The only additional charges stem from whether or not he encouraged several of his deputies to come to a barn and help build it, which he denies that," said Myers.
The original accusations against Underwood and his two deputies came after a traffic incident in November 2018 was videotaped. Court records say Underwood was suspended from office in May of 2019 after prosecutors say he lied to the FBI, falsified police reports and falsely arrested two people after those people videotaped a traffic incident near their home in November of 2018. Sprouse and Neal were indicted by prosecutors on charges of violating the civil rights of the people in the 2018 videotaping incident.
Federal prosecutors say the three made up fake police reports to justify the seizure of the video and the phone.
Those charges from May remain part of the indictments against all three men.
Underwood’s attorney hopes he’ll be able to clear things up by bringing this case to trial.
“We’re encouraged by the evidence we’ve seen and the evidence we haven’t seen, he’s indicated to me that he wants his day in court," said Myers.
According to Myers, a trial for this case could start as soon as January. Lawyers reconvened Tuesday afternoon to discuss a trial start date and how much time they would need for the potential trial.
Right now, all three men continue to be out on bond.