South Carolina Sheriff Charles Lemon Indicted, Joins Long List of Troubled SC Sheriffs

Authorities said South Carolina Sheriff Charles Lemon was indicted Tuesday for directing a deputy to shock an inmate three times, joining a long list of troubled sheriffs in the state.

Taking bribes, operating a drug ring, getting inmates to do personal work and manufacturing false police reports to get people out of credit card debt are several of the crimes committed by 13 other sheriffs in South Carolina since 2010.

Lemon, a sheriff in the state's Marlboro County, now faces charges of assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature and misconduct in office. The deputy allegedly ordered to shock the inmate with a Taser, Deputy David Andrew Cook, has also been indicted on the same charges. Prosecutors said Cook no longer works in law enforcement, and court records did not identify a lawyer for him.

Lemon and Cook could each face up to 20 years in prison if convicted of the felony assault charge. Lemon was also suspended Tuesday, authorities said.

In a statement immediately following the May 2020 incident, Lemon said the inmate attacked him during an attempt to escape from a cell. The inmate faces charges for assaulting a police officer.

Lemon directed Cook to use his Taser when it was touching the inmate and again after deploying its prongs, which could have inflicted severe injury or death, according to the indictments. The indictment did not indicate if the inmate was handcuffed or restricted at the time of the incident.

south carolina police charles lemon sheriff
According to indictments, Marlboro County, South Carolina, Sheriff Charles Lemon directed Deputy David Andrew Cook to use his Taser on an inmate, which could have inflicted severe injury or death. iStock/Getty

In May 2020, Marlboro County deputies released a statement saying the inmate was jailed after beating another man with a baseball bat and his fists, along with throwing the man's Bible into the garbage.

After they arrested the inmate, guards requested help because the man's behavior was "putting the safety of the jail at risk," according to the police statement.

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 inmate 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 Governor Henry McMaster has named former Bennettsville Police Chief Larry McNeil interim sheriff.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.