Suspended Marlboro County Sheriff, former deputy to be arraigned Tuesday

Pee Dee Crime

Screenshot from video (Strom Law Firm)

MARLBORO COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — Suspended Marlboro County Sheriff Charles Lemon and a former deputy will be arraigned Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. on charges stemming from a tasing incident at the Marlboro County Detention Center, according to South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson.

Lemon and Cook will be arraigned in front of Judge Michael Nettles in Florence, according to Wilson.

The attorneys for a man who was tased by Lemon and former deputy David Andrew Cook released a statement Thursday calling the incident “undeniable abuse.”

Attorneys for Jarrell Lee Johnson put out the statement along with the bodycam video of the incident that appears to show Johnson repeatedly tased by Lemon and Cook while at the Marlboro County Detention Center.

“This is clear and undeniable abuse,” Bakari Sellers, an attorney with Strom Law Firm representing Johnson, said in a statement. “I want to specifically thank the SC Law Enforcement Division (SLED) for their determined and transparent investigation and those deputies who put their duty and integrity ahead of their careers in order to bring this abuse to light.”

“Without them, we might never have known the truth,” the statement reads.

“The truth is that these two men sworn to protect and serve repeatedly assaulted someone with real mental health issues and then tried to cover it up,” Amy Willbanks, another attorney representing Johnson, said in a statement.

Lemon and Cook have been charged with assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature, along with misconduct in office, according to an announcement Tuesday morning by South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson.

In the video, Lemon orders the officials to remove the inmate’s handcuffs and “tase the hell out of him.” Lemon is heard on the video saying, “When y’all take the handcuffs off of him – when he turn around, stick that taser to his head.”

The sheriff then yells several things, including about how he knows Johnson’s whole family. He goes on to yell, “give him what he asked for.”

Johnson’s handcuffs are then removed by jail officials and that’s when Johnson turns around and appears to lunge towards the sheriff. After that, more yelling is heard and the sheriff continues to demand that the Taser be deployed to Johnson more. This video lasts for a little over two minutes.

Warning: The video below may be disturbing to some viewers.

According to Nexstar affiliate WJZY in Charlotte, the investigation began in November after sheriff’s Lt. Trevor Murphy sent SLED information containing allegations against the sheriff, including body camera video from the tasing incident.

“A couple of months ago when we were able to acquire some evidence that was indisputable, there’s no denying it, at that point we knew that anonymous wasn’t working anymore, that somebody had to step out,” Murphy said. “I wish I’d done it a year ago, two years ago when some of this stuff happened. But now that we had everything ready to go forward on it, it was time to step out and I know I needed to do it.”

Murphy, who recently posted on social media that he was no longer with the department, offered more insight into his decision.

“It was scary that you’re potentially standing up to the most powerful man in the county who is backed by a system that’s been historically oppressive. It’s very scary But, we knew it had to be done and it was necessary.”

When asked if he had regrets, Murphy said: “It was terrifying, even now as I stand here. There’s still some kind of iffy feelings, butterflies in my stomach just because of the magnitude of the situation. It was scary, but at the end of the day it was necessary, and if I’m going to be a man of my word and the man of my character, I had to do it, and that’s what I want my son to do and I need to do what I want my son to do in a tough situation.”

On Tuesday evening, a reporter asked Sheriff Lemon if there was anything he wanted to say about the indictments. Sheriff Lemon, talking about a homicide that happened Tuesday in the county, responded, “We got a murder down there. Why don’t you go down there and see if you can help solve that murder?”

If convicted of the assault charges, the men can face up to 20 years in prison. They could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison for the misdemeanor charge of common law misconduct in office.

Former Bennettsville Police Department Chief Larry McNeil was named as interim sheriff until Lemon is acquitted, convicted, until if the indictment is disposed of or until a sheriff is elected in the next general election, according to an announcement. Cook resigned in July 2021 and was with the department since 2018.

Late Tuesday afternoon, Marlboro County Schools said McNeil was resigning effective immediately from his position as chairman of the district’s board of education. The board plans to call a special meeting to address the resignation.

News13 called Lemon Tuesday about the allegations and he hung up before we could ask questions.

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