COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The federal trial for former Chester County Sheriff Alex Underwood, former Chief Deputy Robert Sprouse, and Deputy Johnny Neal got underway in Columbia on Monday.
The 17 count indictment alleges public corruption by the three individuals.
The charges that Underwood, Sprouse, and Neal are facing include using on-duty deputies to do manual labor at Underwood’s home, using county money to take their families on vacations, engaging in a conspiracy to use their positions to intimidate others, and falsifying police reports and unjustly arresting two people in 2018.
Alex Underwood is facing indictments for criminal conspiracy, misconduct in office, embezzlement, criminal conspiracy, forgery, and use of official position, or office for financial gain.
Robert Sprouse is facing indictments for criminal conspiracy, embezzlement, forgery, and misconduct in office.
Johnny Neal is facing indictments for criminal conspiracy, misconduct in office, and use of official position or office for financial gain.
All three have pled not guilty to each charge.
Prosecutors and the defendant’s lawyers made their opening arguments before a 12 person jury. The first three witnesses also took the stand.
The prosecution’s allegations include that Underwood directed his on-duty deputies to do manual labor on his property, including the repair of a barn.
Jonny Neal’s attorney said during opening statements that the party barn was a place where there could be get-togethers and official sheriff department parties. The annual Christmas party took place at Underwood’s home each year.
Three witnesses took the stand, all of whom worked under former Sheriff Underwood during his time at the department. All three witnesses testified to performing manual labor on Underwood’s property while on the clock. Two of the men also laid out the way they were asked to do surveillance work on community members outside of their duties.
The defense made the argument that when putting some of the situations into context, no crimes have been committed. The defense also pointed out that Underwood had received death threats during his time as sheriff.
The trial is set to last for a few weeks.