Editor’s note: A previous version of this story contained an incorrect spelling for Jarrel Johnson. It has been corrected.
MARLBORO COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — A judge on Tuesday granted $25,000 surety bonds for suspended Marlboro County Sheriff Charles Lemon and former deputy David Andrew Cook.
Lemon and David Andrew Cook are were arraigned at 1:30 p.m. in front of Judge Michael Nettles in Florence. Nettles said neither Lemon nor Cook can have any contact with anyone from the Marlboro County Sheriff’s Office outside of their attorneys.
Bakari Sellers, who is representing the family of Jarrel Johnson, spoke in court and said the family was unaware anything happened to their son while he was in jail and considered Lemon a friend until they saw video of the incident.
“This is arguably one of the most disgusting acts we’ve seen on video, your honor, perpetuated by law enforcement of an individual that’s still alive,” Sellers said.
“We would ask your honor, and everyone else, to show the same grace and mercy to these individuals that they showed to my client,” Sellers said. “Under South Carolina law, you can’t be sheriff, and jury, and executioner at the same time and Mr. Lemon thought he was.”
The attorney for Lemon, Morgan Martin, argued that Johnson was acting disorderly.
“There was no execution involved here,” Martin said in response to Sellers’ comments.
Martin said Lemon has been a life-long resident of Marlboro County except for when he was in the military and asked for bond to be granted. He argued that the taser was used to maintain control of the situation and said Lemon is not guilty.
“In a jail setting, somebody’s got to be in control and the question is, is that going to be law enforcement or is it going to be people who have been arrested,” Martin said.
Martin said the family is rightfully concerned about the video and nobody wanted this situation to happen, but said the actions of Lemon were reasonable. Martin argued that Johnson was brought to the jail earlier on the day of the incident for allegedly beating his dad with a bat.
“We believe that the Sheriff Lemon and the other deputy involved were doing the best they could to get him into the cell without any violence,” Martin said.
Heather Weiss, a lawyer for the State Attorney General’s Office, showed Nettles the video of the tasing.
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 last week by South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson.
In the video of the incident, 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.
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.
The next court date for Lemon and Cook has not been set.