Alex Underwood rejects plea deal

CHESTER – A December 6 deadline came and went without indicted former Chester County Sheriff Alex Underwood and two former deputies to accept a plea agreement offered by the U.S. Department of Justice on the federal charges all three were indicted on.

Alex Underwood

Originally, the defendants had until Nov. 6 to accept the government’s offer of a plea deal and receive credit for “accepting responsibility” for the charges they were indicted on in the case of United States v. Underwood, et al. Attorneys for all three defendants had asked for a 20-day extension of the original deadline, each claiming a different reason as to why they were requesting an extension on accepting the plea deal offered by the government.

Federal Judge J. Michelle Childs gave the defendants Alex Underwood, Johnny Neal and Robert Sprouse 30 days to accept the plea deal, until December 6th.

The three all face federal charges related to the arrest of Fort Lawn resident Kevin Simpson in November of 2018. Indictments for Underwood, Sprouse and Neal in connection with the Simpson arrest ranged from creating a false incident report, to violating Simpson’s rights and causing him bodily injury, evidence tampering and lying to federal investigators.

There are also corruption charges that stem from allegations that Underwood, Sprouse and Neal used their positions as law enforcement officers to intimidate others, took “family members on trips (while) charging the cost to the sheriff’s office,” directed “payments for contracted security detail services through a particular sheriff’s office bank account to avoid tax payment,” used “sheriff’s office employees to conduct manual labor that personally benefitted…Underwood while the employees were actively working for the sheriff’s office” and “establishing a climate of fear within the sheriff’s office to direct and secure obedience among subordinates.”

A superseding indictment issued in September added additional charges of wire fraud and corruption to those already being faced by Underwood and Neal.

According to Danielle M. Nichols, Deputy Spokesperson in the Office of Public Affairs for the U.S. Department of Justice, none of the defendants accepted the plea deal offered by the government.

There will be a status hearing by telephone on December 17, a hearing on motions on January 4 and the trial date is set for February 1, 2021.

Attorneys for all three defendants were contacted for a statement but none was received by press time.

Editor Travis Jenkins contributed to this story.