Underwood set for court appearance next month

CHESTER – Former Chester County Sheriff Alex Underwood has a court date set for early next month, though it will not be to face sentencing.

Alex Underwood

Underwood was found guilty in federal court on seven different counts eight months ago. Documents indicate he will be in court on Jan. 10, “to address the objections in the presentence reports only.” It is specifically noted that, “sentencing will be scheduled for a later date.” A pre-sentence report is a legal document that presents findings on the background of a person convicted of a crime.

The proceedings next month have been delayed as Underwood’s attorneys have successfully requested extensions. One of the motions for an extension argued more time was needed as the pre-sentence report “includes calculations for a significant amount of incarceration.”

“Defense counsel needs more time to consult the notes and the large amount of discovery material provided to research the applicable guideline law and properly challenge the pre-sentence report. Additionally, counsel’s office is recovering from a ransomware virus that made it difficult to access files,” the filing said.

Earlier this month, a legal bid by Underwood seeking a new trial or acquittal was rejected by Judge J. Michelle Childs.

“The question is whether the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the prosecution, is such that the finder of fact might find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt,” Childs wrote, quoting from the United States v. Wooten case. “A defendant who brings a sufficiency challenge bears a heavy burden…a defendant is entitled to relief only if no rational trier of fact could have found proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt…the court does not weigh the evidence of assess the credibility of witnesses and assumes the jury resolved a contradictions in favor of the government.”

In the end, Childs ruled that “the government put forth sufficient evidence to support each of Underwood’s convictions…accordingly, this is not a ‘rare circumstance’ requiring the court to grant a new trial.”

At the conclusion of a two-week trial in April, a jury found Underwood guilty on seven different federal charges. Those included a conspiracy charge in relation to wire fraud, federal program theft or falsification of records. That was tied to schemes dealing with skimming money from subordinates and seeking to enrich himself on ECHO DUI task force checkpoints funded by a federal grant administered through the Hazel Pittman Center (checks cashed electronically crossed state lines which brought on the wire fraud charge), a separate scheme to have on-duty police officers build a personal party barn on his property and falsification of records related to the 2018 arrest of Kevin Simpson. He was also found guilty of civil rights violations related to the arrest of Simpson, federal program theft and four additional conspiracy charges. Underwood was indicted in May of 2019 and subsequently removed from office by Gov. Henry McMaster, who named Max Dorsey interim sheriff. Because he had not been convicted prior to the 2020 General Election, Underwood was eligible to run for a third term in office but was defeated by Dorsey.

Former deputies Robert Sprouse and Johnny Neal were both convicted on multiple charges alongside Underwood. Sentencing has still not been scheduled.

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