Chester County sheriff covered up unlawful arrest, use of excessive force, indictment says

An indictment released by the South Carolina District Attorney's Office alleges that the Chester County Sheriff and two deputies conspired to cover up an unlawful arrest in which excessive force was used. 

Chester County Sheriff George Alexander “Big A” Underwood, 55, Lt. Johnny Ricardo Neal, Jr., 39, and deputy Robert Andrew Sprouse, 44 are facing several federal charges alleging that they tampered with evidence on a cellphone siezed illegally, falsified records and made false statements to the FBI. 

The indictment says that on November 20, 2018, Underwood, Neal and Sprouse responded to a car accident in Fort Lawn. The driver had reportedly fled from law enforcement. A resident living nearby, only identified as K.S. pulled out his phone and began to live stream the suspect's arrest.

Underwood asked the man to stay on his porch, but he stayed in his front yard. 25 minutes later, Underwood went back to the house. The Sheriff then followed the man onto his porch, lunged at him, grabbed him by the torso and demanded that he hand over his phone.

Neal put the man in handcuffs, and while walking him to the police cruiser he knocked him to the ground, causing injuries to his head and elbow. The man was then taken to jail where he was held for three nights. 

Following the arrest, Sprouse entered the home without a warrant to search for the man's phone. He found it and took it, giving it to a deputy to enter into evidence. In January, Sprouse and Neal filed an incident report containing false statements about the seizure, and later lied to the FBI about what happend. 

Underwood, Neal, and Sprouse will make their initial appearances at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, May 21, at the Matthew J. Perry Federal Courthouse in Columbia.