SC Supreme Court: Greenville man's conviction of interfering with 2018 arrest overturned (2024)

The South Carolina Supreme Court on Wednesday overturned a Greenville County man’s conviction of interfering with an arrest by sheriff’s deputies nearly six years ago.

On July 21, 2018, two sheriff’s deputies arrested Thomas Charles Felton Jones after he recorded the officers’ questioning a friend on Jones's property. Jones was tackled, tased, and lost consciousness during what was described as an “aggressive” arrest.

He was subsequently convicted of interfering with a county law enforcement officer − a county ordinance. The state Supreme Court overturned Jones’ conviction under the ordinance, saying it was unconstitutional.

“As is clear from both the body camera footage and the record before us, Jones was doing nothing more than observing and asking questions of the officers,” the court’s decision said.“Both of these actions are constitutionally protected conduct, and as such, (the court) cannot support a conviction under this ordinance.”

SC Supreme Court: Greenville man's conviction of interfering with 2018 arrest overturned (1)

The court declined to address Jones’ request that the court strike down the ordinance altogether as unconstitutional.

Kyle White, Jones' civil attorney, told the Greenville News Wednesday that a civil lawsuit related to the case was settled in January 2022. The lawsuit alleged the existence of an "aggressive patrol" operation by sheriff's deputies.

Previously:'Aggressive' Greenville deputies beat, tasered bystander in his own yard, lawsuit alleges

State Supreme Court decision calls case 'appalling'

Jones’s conviction was overturned after a Greenville County circuit judge appealed the case.

Jones was tackled, tased, and lost consciousness during an arrest after a three-minute interaction with deputies where he asked them questions and observed their arrest of his acquaintance but did not physically interfere with their investigation.

During the incident, which occurred about 1:30 a.m., two Greenville County sheriff’s deputies, Jake Lancaster and Jonathan Cooper, pulled over a woman who was Jones’s friend. When Jones left his house and asked why his visitor was being pulled over, Lancaster told Jones she had turned without using a turn signal and rolled through stop signs.

An “irritated” Lancaster asked Jones, "Do you need anything, man?" After which Jones and his friend responded that she was visiting Jones for the night.

The court’s decision described the woman and Jones's interactions with deputies as“calm and respectful.” After Jones took a few steps back from deputies and the woman, he watched with his flashlight on while Cooper questioned the friend.

In an exchange that lasted only seven to eight seconds, Lancaster then asked Jones, "Alright, man. Do you need to be here?" After Jones responded that he was on his property, Lancaster pointed toward the house and said, "You can go back over there, or you can be arrested for interfering.Step back."

When Jones did not move after two seconds, Lancaster told him to turn around and then approached Jones. Both deputies “rushed” toward Jones and tackled, tased, handcuffed, and arrested him. Jones lost consciousness during the incident.

Three minutes elapsed between Jones appearing on camera and the arrest, the court stated.

SC Supreme Court: Greenville man's conviction of interfering with 2018 arrest overturned (2)

Jones was later acquitted of assaulting an officer but found guilty of the county ordinance. His indictment stated he “willfully or intentionally” interfered with sheriff's deputies carrying out their duties, the Greenville News previously reported. He was sentenced to 10 days in the county detention center and a fine of $500, according to his sentencing form.

The Supreme Court’s decision called the facts of the case “appalling.”

“This case certainly indicates the ordinance affords law enforcement officers discretion which can be grossly abused, as it was here,” the Supreme Court said.

The court said that Jones could be observed on body camera footage merely observing and asking questions of the officers. Cooper testified at trial that anything that could cause him to lose focus was considered “hindering” an investigation.

“While many circ*mstances may require law enforcement officers to secure a scene to carry out their duties or secure their safety, what happened to Jones has left us deeply disturbed,” the decision read.

Although the use of the ordinance against Jones was deemed unconstitutional, the state argued the court should not address the broader constitutionality of the ordinance. The court agreed with the state’s argument and only addressed how it applied to Jones in his case.

More:Former Greenville County deputy acquitted of assault and misconduct during second trial

Cooper remains employed by the sheriff’s office and has been since September 2016. Lancaster resigned in May 2019. He served for a year and a half as an officer with the Spartanburg Water System until November 2020.

Greenville County Sheriff Hobart Lewis issued a statement regarding the court's decision Wednesday.

"While I refrain from commenting on actions that took place prior to becoming Sheriff, under my leadership, deputies enforce and uphold the law in a manner that is just and properly applied," Hobart Lewis said in a statement. "Anything outside of that is dealt with accordingly. While this case predates my tenure, I respect the Supreme Court's decision."

Lewis took office in 2020, succeeding former Sheriff Will Lewis, who is not related but was in office at the time Jones was arrested. Will Lewis was sentenced to a year in prison for misconduct in office in October 2019 after he coerced his former assistant into an affair.

SC Supreme Court: Greenville man's conviction of interfering with 2018 arrest overturned (3)

White, who represented Jones in his civil case, said that the case was dismissed in early 2022 after the parties reached a resolution that was “satisfactory” to all involved. He said the settlement was in the six-figure range.

“This case was an example of the dangers of the government violating the First Amendment," White said, "and I'm glad that Mr. Jones’ rights were vindicated.”

Chalmers Rogland covers public safety for the Spartanburg Herald-Journal, Greenville News and USA Today Network. Reach him via email at

SC Supreme Court: Greenville man's conviction of interfering with 2018 arrest overturned (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Margart Wisoky

Last Updated:

Views: 5895

Rating: 4.8 / 5 (78 voted)

Reviews: 93% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Margart Wisoky

Birthday: 1993-05-13

Address: 2113 Abernathy Knoll, New Tamerafurt, CT 66893-2169

Phone: +25815234346805

Job: Central Developer

Hobby: Machining, Pottery, Rafting, Cosplaying, Jogging, Taekwondo, Scouting

Introduction: My name is Margart Wisoky, I am a gorgeous, shiny, successful, beautiful, adventurous, excited, pleasant person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.