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Magistrate suspended for 6 months for improper emails

May 25, 2022 GMT

CHESTER, S.C. (AP) — A magistrate who has been reprimanded before and whose husband is a former sheriff awaiting sentencing for stealing money from government programs has been suspended from the bench for six months, the South Carolina Supreme Court announced Wednesday.

Chester County Magistrate Angel Underwood used her official judicial email account to help her husband write a disciplinary order on a sheriff’s office employee and to recommend a student for a scholarship on behalf of deputies, the justices wrote in their order.

Underwood also pulled private crime tips from the sheriff’s office Facebook page and emailed to deputies on her judicial account, according to court records.

Underwood’s actions “served to erode public confidence in the judiciary” because they “blurred the boundaries between her role as an independent and impartial magistrate and someone acting on behalf of the Sheriff’s Department,” the order said.

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The state Supreme Court publicly reprimanded Underwood in 2016 for failing to point out her husband was the sheriff each time she started to hear a case involving the Chester County Sheriff’s Office. Underwood pointed out there were no complaints on how she handled those cases.

Underwood’s husband, Alex, was convicted in April 2021 of several federal charges. Prosecutors said he skimmed overtime meant for his deputies, used taxpayer money to fly first-class to a Las Vegas conference with his wife and then tried to cover up that she went and had on-duty deputies work to build a party barn at his home, even pulling officers away from drug stakeouts.

Underwood will likely face around four years in prison when he is sentenced on the convictions.