The lawsuit allegations of sexual harassment and a forced sexual relationship and retaliation made by a female former deputy against the Chester County Sheriff’s Office and Sheriff Alex Underwood are set for a civil trial Monday in Chester.
Underwood, the sheriff elected in 2012, has repeatedly denied the allegations made by former deputy Mary Anne Tolbert. Underwood’s vehement denials included a counter suit filed weeks ago for defamation that stated that Tolbert “knowingly made false statements.”
However, visiting Circuit Court Judge Dan Hall of York dismissed the defamation counter suit and ordered the civil trial to start Monday, according to court documents. That means unless a settlement is reached before or during the trial, the explicit allegations will be judged by a jury of 12 in Chester County.
And more than 30 people who are current or former deputies, and others, likely could testify.
Yet the civil measure of a jury’s ruling for or against someone is far less in civil court than a criminal case where evidence for guilt has to be “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Civil law requires only a preponderance of the evidence - 50 percent plus - to side with one side or the other.
Tolbert, who worked at times in animal control, the jail, 911 and other duties, claims she was promised the chief deputy job but was passed over and retaliated against after she stopped the sexual relationship. She also claims that one of the homes where the meetings took place was owned by former Chester Police Department chief Andre Williams.
Williams, who is running against Underwood in the June Democratic primary for sheriff, has denied any knowledge of a relationship between Tolbert and Underwood or knowledge that his home could have been a meeting place.