A South Carolina sheriff is dealing with a number of prices after allegedly ordering a deputy to make use of his Taser on an inmate already in custody in a disturbing case that shines a contemporary highlight on a state with a protracted and sordid historical past of misconduct by elected lawmen.
Marlboro County Sheriff Charles Lemon and former Deputy David Andrew Cook dinner have been each indicted on assault and battery and misconduct prices Tuesday in reference to a Might 2020 incident involving Jarrell Lee Johnson of Bennettsville on the county jail, in line with the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office. The indictment alleges that Lemon ordered Cook dinner to deploy his Taser on Johnson on the Marlboro County Detention Middle at the very least twice—together with the chest and leg—to subdue him, despite the fact that the person was already “contained in the jail.”
The indictments instantly prompted Gov. Henry McMaster to droop Lemon from the submit he has held since 2017 and appoint former Bennettsville Chief of Police Larry McNeil as interim sheriff. Cook dinner, in the meantime, was out of a job. “Deputy Cook dinner is now not employed in regulation enforcement,” the lawyer common’s workplace added.
The Marlboro County Sheriff’s Workplace declined to touch upon the costs. Neither Lemon nor Cook dinner instantly responded to a request for remark Tuesday, and it was unclear if they’d attorneys.
However Lemon, who served as chief deputy in the identical division for 12 years previous to securing the highest official spot in Marlboro County, is only one of at the very least a dozen sheriffs in South Carolina to be charged with legal wrongdoing within the final decade. Prosecutors have accused these elected officers with a slew of crimes, starting from sexual harrassment to accepting bribes to getting inmates to do personal work—all whereas donning the badge labeling them as one of many pillars of their group.
Seth W. Stoughton, an affiliate professor of criminology and legal justice on the College of South Carolina who testified within the Derek Chauvin homicide trial, advised The Each day Beast earlier this 12 months that whereas “sheriffs are a bit of bizarre in most states, South Carolina appears to have a excessive stage of sheriff issues.”
“To some extent, as a result of they’re popularly elected, sheriffs mirror the norms and values of their voters. In progressive cities, you’re going to search out progressive sheriffs. Not all the time however sometimes. Conservatives cities, due to this fact, have extra conservatives sheriffs. Like in South Carolina,” he added.
The costs in opposition to Lemon and his former deputy got here simply days after three Marlboro investigators mysteriously resigned from the division.
According to local ABC affiliate WPDE, one of many departed investigators posted on social media concerning the resignation, inveighing, “As we speak was my final day carrying this badge. As we speak I selected my character over corruption. As we speak I selected my integrity over my revenue. As we speak I selected to stroll away. I attempted to face as much as a traditionally oppressive and systemically racist establishment and tried to be a change and tried to make a change.”
Whereas the main points of what led Lemon to allegedly order his deputy to make use of a Taser on Johnson a number of occasions stay unclear, a Marlboro County Sheriff’s Office press release from the identical day famous that the 34-year-old was arrested after allegedly throwing any individual’s Bible within the trash. When the unnamed particular person went to retrieve it, Johnson allegedly “struck him with a baseball bat and his fists a number of occasions.”
The assertion famous that after Johnson’s arrest, Marlboro County Detention Middle requested for assist as a result of his conduct was “placing the security of the jail in danger”—however didn’t go into element. Lemon went to the jail himself to assist, and the assertion claimed he was personally assaulted as Johnson tried to flee his cell. Notably, authorities claimed on the time that neither the sheriff nor Johnson have been injured throughout the scuffle—and didn’t point out the usage of a Taser in any respect.
“Johnson was detained by Sheriff Lemon and the deputy with out harm to Johnson. Sheriff Lemon is okay and in good well being,” the discharge added, noting that Johnson was charged with assaulting a police officer and assault and battery of a excessive and aggravated nature.
State data point out these prices are nonetheless pending. Johnson didn’t instantly reply to The Each day Beast’s request for remark.
Shifting concepts about what constitutes legit law-enforcement within the state have helped land a protracted checklist of South Carolina sheriffs and deputies in scorching water. Amongst them are Florence Sheriff Kenny Boone, who pleaded responsible final Dcember to a home violence cost, former Berkeley County Sheriff Way DeWitt—who stop after allegations of sexual harassment surfaced after his DUI arrest—and former Greenville County Sheriff Will Lewis, who was sentenced to a year in prison using public resources to arrange an affair.
Most just lately, Chester County sheriff Alex “Massive A” Underwood was convicted in April of corruption and abuse of energy after prosecutors alleged he and two different former deputies used their positions to counterpoint themselves, hinder investigations, after which cowl up their misdeeds.
“Sadly, there have been a number of Sheriffs in South Carolina over the previous decade who’ve made extraordinarily poor choices that disillusioned their constituents, their fellow Sheriffs, and your complete regulation enforcement career,” Jarrod Bruder, the manager director of the South Carolina Sheriffs’ Affiliation, beforehand advised The Each day Beast.
“As an Affiliation, now we have confused ethics and management coaching, a lot in order that now we have made ethics coaching a part of our statutorily required annual persevering with schooling credit. Now we have additionally revamped our Code of Ethics and requested all Sheriffs to abide by these necessities. In the end, Sheriffs who acted unlawfully have been held accountable, as they need to have been,” he added.
For his half, Lemon has been named in a slew of lawsuits through the years, together with a 2018 federal lawsuit alleging he fired employees for being white. Filed by four former employees, the lawsuit alleged that Lemon wrongfully terminated their employment shortly after he was elected sheriff in Jan. 2017 based mostly on their race. The lawsuit was dismissed last April.
Another lawsuit naming Lemon and filed by a former deputy a 12 months later additionally alleged discrimination inside the division. The lawsuit claimed that Lemon subjected the previous worker “to a hostile work setting and finally termination after Plaintiff was injured on the job.” In February, that case was also dismissed.