S.C. sheriff indicted, suspended from office over inmate tasing incident

Sheriff Charles Lemon and a former deputy now face felony assault charges that could mean up to 20 years in prison


Associated Press
By JEFFREY COLLINS

COLUMBIA, S.C. — A sheriff in South Carolina was indicted and suspended from office Tuesday for ordering a deputy to shock an inmate three times, authorities said.

Marlboro County Sheriff Charles Lemon said in a statement immediately after the May 2020 incident that the inmate attacked him while trying to escape from a cell. The original charges against the inmate for assaulting a police officer still stand.

Lemon was indicted on charges of assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature and misconduct in office. The deputy who shocked the inmate with a Taser has been indicted on the same charges. If convicted of the felony assault charge, they could each spend up to 20 years in prison.

Lemon joins a long line of South Carolina sheriffs charged with misconduct. Since 2010, 13 sheriffs in the state's 46 counties have been convicted of crimes ranging from taking bribes to running a drug ring to getting inmates to do personal work or creating false police reports to get people out of credit card debt.

Lemon didn't answer a text message left on his cellphone Tuesday.

The sheriff ordered Deputy David Andrew Cook to use his Taser when it was directly touching the inmate and again after shooting the prongs into the victim, according to the indictments, which said the inmate could have suffered severe injury or death. They did not say if he was handcuffed or otherwise confined when he was shocked.

Cook no longer works in law enforcement, prosecutors said. Court records did not list a lawyer for him.

Marlboro County deputies issued a statement about the incident after it happened in May 2020, saying the inmate was jailed after beating another man with a baseball bat and his fists and throwing the man's Bible in the trash.

After they arrested him, officers asked for help because the man's behavior was "putting the safety of the jail at risk," according to the statement, which didn't provide specifics.

Lemon went to the jail himself and was assaulted as the inmate tried to run out of his cell, deputies said, adding that neither the sheriff nor the inmate was injured.

The charges of assaulting a police officer and assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature against the man are still pending as of Tuesday, according to state court records.

Lemon's biography, which remained on the county's website after his indictment, said he spent more than 30 years in law enforcement and was chief deputy in Marlboro County for 12 years before being elected sheriff in 2016.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster named former Bennettsville Police Chief Larry McNeil interim sheriff.

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