AMBRIDGE (KDKA/AP) – The trial for a Beaver County sheriff accused of threatening to shoot a news reporter began Monday morning.
George David is accused of threatening to cut off the hands of a political campaign worker as well.
Opening statements began Monday morning.
Prosecutor Laurel Brandstetter told the jury, “What this case is about is absolute power corrupting absolutely.”
She told them David made terroristic threats against a reporter and used his gun as part of that intimidation, as well as intimidating witnesses.
Defense attorney Lee Rothman said the case is about the power of a party official who wanted David out of the way because she believed he didn’t work hard enough for her campaign.
During testimony, the judge admonished David’s family after an outburst.
The prosecution alleges someone on David’s side coughed “liar” when a key prosecution witness took the stand.
Rothman said he didn’t hear such an outburst.
David has been on house arrest since violating his bail last month.
The conditions of his bail included:
- He cannot conduct a news conference on county premises.
- He must limit his presence in the courthouse and has agreed to only appear at the courthouse from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. daily.
- The restriction on carrying a weapon into the courthouse remains, but he can hunt on his own property.
David was also ordered to give up 700 personal firearms.
Last April, David appeared in court as several witnesses described threats he had made.
The first witness to testify was a Beaver County Jail guard who claimed remarks from Sheriff George David caused him to fear for his life.
He says when he tried to shake hands with him at the Democratic Party Headquarters, Daniel Fleischman says David told him, “I’ll cut our mother (expletive) hands off and eat them, then shove them down your throat.”
This afternoon John Vranesevich, who operates the Beaver Countians website, tearfully testified about being threatened by David as he prepared to investigate a story about bids for deputy uniforms.
First he said he was threatened with a billy club.
“At one point he says, ‘You start writing (expletive) like this, I’ll beat you to a pulp like I used to beat those people up in Aliquippa.'”
Then, he testified, he was threatened with a gun.
“If you start writing (expletive) like this I’ll blow your brains out,” he claims David said. “I was looking right down the barrel. His finger was on the trigger.”
“He was waving it around,” he continued. “I thought I was done. I really thought he was going to pull that trigger. I’ve never seen anybody act like that in my life.”
“I wanted to go out the back door cause it had a surveillance camera. If anything happened to me at least it would be on tape.”
David faces 11 misdemeanor charges including obstruction of justice, intimating witnesses and terroristic threats.
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