Son of Chester County sheriff on trial for cocaine trafficking

08/25/2014 5:15 PM

08/26/2014 6:59 AM

The son of Chester County Sheriff Alex Underwood went on trial Monday on cocaine trafficking charges stemming from a Rock Hill arrest that came just days before his father was elected.

Testimony and evidence that could land Jacquese Traveon Underwood, 29, in prison for at least 25 years won’t start until next week.

Jacquese Underwood, who has previous convictions for dealing cocaine and weapons possession, had been out of prison just a few months when he was arrested in October 2012. He was estranged from his father at the time of the incident, Sheriff Underwood said at the time.

Jacquese Underwood faces a minimum of 25 years in prison if convicted. Under state sentencing guidelines, he could face even more time because of his previous conviction for trafficking cocaine.

Leah Moody, Jacquese Underwood’s lawyer, said in court Monday that she plans to ask a judge to dismiss the charges, saying police did not have probable cause to arrest him. Jacquese Underwood was indicted by a grand jury earlier this year.

He was arrested for allegedly trafficking a kilogram of cocaine in a sting that involved local, state and federal agents.

Duane Arness Harrison, 41, described by police as the “lookout” for the alleged drug deal, is on trial with Jacquese Underwood. Both have pleaded not guilty.

Assistant Solicitor Matt Shelton called the case Monday and the attorneys began picking jurors, but because of scheduling conflicts, opening arguments and presentation of evidence won’t start until Sept. 2, Shelton said. Harrison’s lawyer, state Rep. Todd Rutherford, D-Columbia, will be attending a special legislative session on Tuesday and Wednesday. Jurors will not be sworn in until next week, Circuit Court Judge Lee Alford said.

A burglary charge against Jacquese Underwood will be dismissed so the trial can focus solely on the drug case, Shelton said. York County drug agents said Jacquese Underwood was charged with burglary because he broke into a home to await delivery of the drugs.

Jacquese Underwood lived with his father as a child and teen, but moved to Rock Hill to live with his mother more than a decade ago. Sheriff Underwood said at the time his son was arrested that he did not condone his son’s actions and had not associated with him for at least a decade.

Sheriff Underwood was a State Law Enforcement Division agent for more than two decades before he was elected Chester County’s first black sheriff in 2012.

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