Max Dorsey was sworn in Tuesday as Chester County Sheriff, less than 24 hours after former sheriff Alex Underwood was suspended from office.
Underwood, along with Chief Deputy Robert Sprouse and Lt. Johnny Neal, face criminal indictments. The three face charges related to a case that alleges falsifying arrest reports, lying to the FBI, covering up crimes, altering evidence and warrantless searches.
Dorsey was appointed by South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster. The governor suspended Underwood Tuesday after the indictments were issued.
Dorsey, 44, a State Law Enforcement Division agent for 24 years, said he is “disappointed” by the criminal allegations. But Dorsey said he will serve Chester County in its time of need.
“We will rebuild this department and protect the people of Chester County,” Dorsey said. “I want the citizens of Chester County to know we are going to do the job and keep them safe.”
Dorsey said in his swearing-in that all police officers are hurt by the allegations. Chester’s deputies will now work to a higher standard, Dorsey said. The indictments are not a reflection on other police officers in Chester County, he said.
Dorsey asked the public to allow the judicial process to run its course, while his office moves forward.
Dorsey held a staff meeting Tuesday morning outside the sheriff’s office before he was sworn in. He hired retired S.C. Highway Patrol officer Joe Tate as chief deputy.
Dorsey said the circumstances of his taking the job are difficult but can be overcome with dedication and care.
“There is chaos we find ourselves in right now,” Dorsey said.
Dorsey thanked McMaster for asking him to do the job.
“We will restore credibility and trust,” Dorsey said.
Dorsey was sworn in at a packed Chester County Courthouse by Circuit Court Judge Brian Gibbons. Dorsey is a Chester native who lives in Richburg in Chester County.
Several law enforcement officers, lawyers, prosecutors and others said the swearing in was both a sad day and a good day as Chester attempts to move forward.
“Max Dorsey will lead us forward,” said Eric Williams, Chester Police Department chief. “This is a new day.”
Candice Lively, 6th Circuit deputy solicitor who prosecutes criminal cases in Chester County, said Dorsey’s integrity will make law enforcement accountable to the public.
Mike Lifsey, 6th Circuit Public Defender, said Dorsey’s honesty and fairness is well-known.
“While I suspect we will often disagree in court, I am confident I can count on him always being truthful and honest,” Lifsey said. “That’s what we need in our sheriff.”
Dorsey will serve as sheriff until charges against Underwood have been disposed of, or until the next election in 2020, McMaster said.
Everett Stubbs said he is the lawyer for Kevin Simpson. He said his client is the person identified by federal prosecutors as “K.S.” in the indictments.
Stubbs, at the swearing in, said Simpson was held in jail for three days after his arrest in November while other inmates received court hearings, bonds, and went home.
Federal authorities say Underwood confronted Simpson after Simpson published a Facebook Live video of an incident between the two men in November 2018. Underwood then allegedly orchestrated a scheme to cover up the incident with charges, phony reports and evidence tampering that included placing the blame for the seizure of the video and a cellphone on another unnamed deputy, indictments say.
Stubbs said the actions alleged against Underwood and the two others charged by federal prosecutors, if proven, were egregious and intolerable.
Stubbs said he represents Simpson and Simpson’s mother, Ernestine, who both were arrested by Underwood and his deputies after the 2018 confrontation. Stubbs said he wants the charges that remain pending against Simpson and Simpson’s mother dropped.
“These cases should be dismissed after these indictments,” Stubbs said. ‘They never should have been arrested.”
South Carolina and Chester County Court records show that the criminal cases against Simpson and his mother remain pending by the S.C. Attorney General’s Office. That office has not yet taken any action.
Robert Kittle, spokesman for the attorney general, said the office cannot comment on the pending cases.
Underwood also is accused of lying to the FBI about his actions, including when he saw the video that Simpson took of the confrontation.
Underwood faces as long as 51 years in prison if convicted of all charges. Underwood’s lawyer, Stanley Myers, has asked the public to keep an open mind until Underwood’s side of the story is heard.
“There are two sides to every story,” Myers said.
It remains unclear if Sprouse and Neal have hired lawyers. None of the three who have been indicted could be reached for comment.
Stubbs said he believes Dorsey will restore honesty and integrity to the sheriff’s office.
“Max Dorsey is a good choice,” Stubbs said. “He has integrity.”