ALIQUIPPA (KDKA) – Testimony in the trial of a Beaver County sheriff accused of threatening to shoot a news reporter continued Tuesday.
George David is accused of threatening to cut off the hands of a political campaign worker as well.
The prosecution’s key witness, John Paul Vranesevich, was on the stand Tuesday morning undergoing cross-examination by the defense.
Attorney Lee Rothman, who represents David, attempted to raise questions about whether Vranesevich was consistent in his prior testimony about his meeting with David, in which he says he was threatened with a billy club and a gun.
Rothman also asked Vranesevich if one of the first people he called after the incident, Brad Davis, was in fact his husband.
Vranesevich admitted they married relatively recently.
His marital status is only at issue because the defense claims that Vranesevich had a vendetta against the sheriff because David didn’t do enough to get Davis a job.
Davis is a former police officer.
Sheriff’s Sgt. Michael Tibolet testified that he first told investigators that nothing happened in the meeting between Sheriff David and an online reporter because he was afraid he’d lose his job if he told the truth.
Tibolet was present at the meeting.
He eventually testified before a grand jury, and testified today, under a grant of immunity.
Tibolet testified he was shocked and stunned when the sheriff pulled out a blackjack then pulled out a gun as he angrily yelled at Vranesevich.
Tibolet recalled on the stand what happened as Sheriff David became angrier during the meeting.
This is what he says happened after the blackjack was produced: “He said if he knew that he was going to die tomorrow he would kill (Times reporter) J.D. Prose and he would kill (Prothonotary) Nancy Worme. I was shocked. I was stunned.”
David accused Vranesevich of being put up to writing a negative story about him by his political foes.
“All of a sudden the sheriff stood up, his arm rising,” testified Tibolet about the gun. “It was more pointed at a 45 degree angle between John Paul (Vranesevich) and the lieutenant. I was shocked. I was concerned. It was something you don’t expect to see.”
But Tibolet admits he wasn’t truthful when first questioned.
“The chief deputy asked what happened. I said, ‘Nothing.’ I was concerned about my employment. I had an argument with him years ago and I ended up working the midnight shift all that summer.”
Later that night, the state police tried to question him at home.
“After midnight, two state troopers came to my door, and I told them, ‘As far as I’m concerned nothing happened.’ At first I thought it would all go away, then I got a subpoena to testify before a grand jury.”
In the weeks after that, he says he told a meeting of people, including the sheriff and his solicitor, that nothing happened.
“I was called to a meeting and the sheriff’s solicitor said if the lieutenant and I stick to that story we’d be ok,” he said.
Then, at one point, he met with the sheriff himself and told him the threats he heard were serious.
“He looked at me and said, ‘Don’t you ever repeat that again,’” he said.
Eventually, Tibolet retained an attorney and testified about his version of what happened.
On Monday, 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.
“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 because 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.