Convicted ex-Chester Sheriff denied bail, must report to prison Oct. 14, judge orders

Tracy Kimball/tkimball@heraldonline.com

A federal judge has ordered former Chester County Sheriff Alex Underwood to report to prison by Oct. 14 to start a 46-month sentence, court documents show.

Underwood, 59, known as “Big A”, was convicted of several felonies in federal court in South Carolina in 2021 and sentenced in July. But Underwood asked federal Judge Joseph Anderson Jr. for bail while appealing the convictions.

In an order Wednesday afternoon, Anderson denied bail and stated Underwood must report to prison by a week from Friday.

The order applies to former Chester County deputy Johnny Neal, who also had sought bail during the appeal process. Neal also must report to prison by Oct. 14. He received a 46-month sentence at the same trial as Underwood.

“Defendants are ordered to report to their respective correctional institutions as directed by the Bureau of Prisons on October 14, 2022, unless a later reporting date is ordered by the BOP,” Anderson wrote in the order.

Anderson stated in the order that even if Underwood’s appeal is successful, it challenges just one of eight convictions.

Underwood and Neal claimed that an expert witness was not allowed to fully testify. Anderson, in the order, said that doesn’t change the other convictions.

The corruption convictions

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

Neal, 42, was convicted of a dozen charges in the same trial, Anderson wrote in the order.

A third former deputy convicted in the same trial, Robert Sprouse, is in prison serving a 24-month sentence.

Underwood was convicted of misusing 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, William Miller, the assistant U.S. Attorney from Washington D.C. who prosecuted Underwood, 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.

Underwood was elected in 2012 and 2016. He was suspended in 2019 after he was indicted.

In court at sentencing in July, Underwood claimed innocence on the charges despite the jury’s guilty verdicts.

Efforts to reach Underwood’s lawyers Wednesday were unsuccessful.

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