‘Vindicated’: SC prosecutors drop charges against Chester man after sheriff indicted

All charges have been dropped against the Chester County man and his mother whom federal prosecutors say were falsely accused by now-indicted former Chester County Sheriff Alex Underwood, prosecutors said.

Charges against Kevin Simpson and his mother, Ernestine, are dismissed, said Robert Kittle, spokesperson for S.C. Attorney General’s Office.

“We have dropped the charges against both Kevin and Ernestine Simpson,” Kittle said in a statement to The Herald. ”We’ve sent the dismissals to the Solicitor’s Office.”

Simpson of Fort Lawn said his lawyer called him late Thursday to tell him that he and his mother no longer face potential criminal prosecution for the November arrests.

“I am happy for me and my mom that the charges are dropped,” Kevin Simpson said Thursday night in a telephone interview with The Herald. “This whole thing could have been avoided.”

The attorney general had been handling prosecution of the disorderly conduct and resisting arrest charges against the Simpsons since their November arrests by Underwood and two deputies. The attorney general was handling the cases at the request of the 6th Circuit Solicitor’s Office that covers Chester County to avoid a potential conflict of interest, prosecutors said.

“Our office supports the decision made by the Attorney General to dismiss all charges and believe it was the right decision considering the circumstances,” said 6th Circuit Deputy Solicitor Candice Lively.

On Tuesday, a federal grand jury indicted Underwood, former chief deputy Robert Sprouse and Lt. Johnny Neal. Led by Underwood, the three falsified police reports and made false statements to the FBI in a conspiracy to cover up the unlawful arrest of a man identified in court documents as “K.S,” federal prosecutors say.

K.S. in those federal documents is Kevin Simpson, said Everett Stubbs, the Chester lawyer representing Simpson and his mother. The attorney general’s office called Stubbs late Thursday confirming the dismissal of charges against the Simpsons, Stubbs said.

“Kevin and his mom are ecstatic, overjoyed, that these false charges are gone,” Stubbs said in an exclusive interview with The Herald. “Both of them feel vindicated. They did nothing wrong and never should have been arrested in the first place. They have been waiting for this day for months. Now it is here. These false charges are no more.”

Underwood is accused of arresting Simpson illegally after Simpson broadcast a cellphone video on Facebook Live in November 2018 of a confrontation with Underwood near a vehicle crash site, court documents show. The Simpsons live next to the Chester County wreck scene. Underwood then set in motion an illegal plan to confiscate the phone and video, then arrest both Simpson and his mother, according to the FBI and federal prosecutors.

Underwood and the others concocted phony police reports to justify the seizure of the phone and video, federal prosecutors say.

“The police reports they filed were a sham,” said Stubbs. “Not just a shame. A sham.”

Underwood was suspended from office by Gov. Henry McMaster on Tuesday after the indictments were issued by a grand jury. Underwood faces as much as 50 years in prison if convicted. Underwood’s lawyer has said there are two sides to the story but has declined further comment.

Max Dorsey, a former State Law Enforcement Division agent from Chester, was appointed sheriff Tuesday after Underwood was forced from office. Dorsey was sworn in Wednesday.

The indictments Tuesday came a week after the FBI raided the Chester County Sheriff’ Office. Underwood is accused in the indictments of lying to the FBI about the case and the video that was seized as recently as May 3.

Underwood, Sprouse and Neal were not arrested Tuesday when they were indicted. None of the three has been taken into custody or jailed.

Kevin Simpson spent three nights and four days in jail after his false arrest by Underwood and the deputies in November, according to federal prosecutors. A “hold” was placed on Simpson in the Chester County jail by Underwood to keep Simpson in custody as the conspiracy to justify the scheme to falsely arrest Simpson was ongoing, federal prosecutors said in the indictments.

“Kevin Simpson was forced to stay in the Chester County jail for three nights and four days for no wrongdoing at all,” Stubbs said. “He can’t get those days and nights of his life back.”

Federal prosecutor Sherri Lydon said in a statement Tuesday called the actions by Underwood and the other police officers, “the worst kind of charges: Allegations of wrongdoing on the part of law enforcement.”

The three sheriff’s officers used their positions as police to cover up their conduct, said Lydon, U.S Attorney for South Carolina. The officers then tried to hide and alter the cellphone that held the video of the incident, Lydon said. The officers then made up a fales report to cover it up, and blamed another unnamed officer for the scheme before Underwood and Sprouse lied to the FBI about what happened, Lydon said.

Underwood, Sprouse and Neal are scheduled to make their first court appearances for arraignment on the charges on May 21 in federal court in Columbia.

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