Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Trial Begins for Sheriff Accused of Hostility

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Trial Begins for Sheriff Accused of Hostility

Article excerpt

The operator of a Beaver County website testified tearfully Monday that Sheriff George David threatened him with a blackjack and his gun during a two-hour tirade April 16, 2012, at the sheriff's office.

On the first day of Sheriff David's trial on misdemeanor charges related to threats, John Paul Vranesevich, who operates the Beaver County website, said the longtime sheriff slammed the blackjack on his desk and waved his gun around while railing about a story Mr. Vranesevich was researching regarding uniform contracts for the sheriff's office.

"I really thought he was going to pull the trigger," he testified.

While two deputies watched, the sheriff would scream at him, calm down and then start screaming again, Mr. Vranesevich said.

"It was like this parabola of emotion," he told the jury. "He got more and more agitated. He just kept yelling. He was shaking; he was stuttering."

In her opening statement, Senior Deputy Attorney General Laurel Brandstetter said Sheriff David used his position as the chief law enforcement officer in the county to attempt to "silence the media" by threatening Mr. Vranesevich and intimidating two deputies who witnessed the events into lying to protect him.

The state maintains that the sheriff unleashed the tirade to pressure Mr. Vranesevich into not writing about the uniform contract.

The sheriff's lawyer, Lee Rothman, countered that Mr. Vranesevich had an agenda during the meeting to "prod and provoke" Sheriff David into getting angry and suggested Nancy Werme, the county prothonotary, put him up to it. The sheriff and Ms. Werme had been friends since childhood in Aliquippa but had a falling out after the November 2011 election because Ms. Werme was angry that the sheriff didn't campaign enough for her, Mr. Rothman alleged.

Under prosecution questioning, Mr. Vranesevich said a deputy had provided him a tip that the sheriff was bypassing the low bidder for sheriff's uniforms in favor of a company that employed a friend. …

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