State police arrest Beaver County Sheriff George David on 11 charges
By Bill Vidonic
Published: Monday, March 25, 2013, 11:30 a.m.
Authorities on Monday charged Beaver County Sheriff George David with threatening a reporter with his service revolver and telling a campaign volunteer he would cut off his hands and eat them, among other allegations.
State police led David, 65, of Hopewell out of the county courthouse in handcuffs to face 11 misdemeanor charges, including making terroristic threats, simple assault, official oppression and obstruction of justice recommended by a state grand jury.
David declined comment after his arraignment and when reached by phone. His attorney, Myron Sainovich, denied the allegations.
“Obviously, the allegations are disturbing, but Sheriff David, like everybody else, is innocent until proven guilty,” said Tom King, a Butler attorney who is general counsel for the Pennsylvania Sheriff's Association.
Courthouse workers were surprised when David returned to work hours later, after a judge freed him on $50,000 unsecured bond.
State police Cpl. Joseph Olayer pushed for stricter bond conditions, including a ban from the courthouse. “We feel that just because he is an elected official he shouldn't be given extra credit,” Olayer said. “He's a continuing threat to (witness) safety.”
Beaver County solicitor Joseph Askar said county officials were powerless to ban David, an elected row officer, from the courthouse. Askar said that since state police started investigating claims against David, at least one employee “expressed concerns about an unsafe workplace.”
As part of his bond, District Judge Tim Finn said David cannot carry a firearm, though he did not order him to surrender any. He said David cannot have contact with John Paul Vranesevich, operator of the Beaver County news website whom David is accused of threatening, campaign volunteer Daniel Fleischman or deputies Thomas Ochs and Michael Tibolet.
Sainovich said Chief Deputy Jay Alstadt would handle day-to-day interactions with Ochs and Tibolet, who could not be reached, so David would not have contact with them.
According to a grand jury presentment, David met with Vranesevich on April 16 to discuss reports about purchasing contracts for department uniforms and equipment. Vranesevich testified that David was angry with another reporter over coverage, and Prothonotary Nancy Werme, whom he believed fired David's wife, Linda.
During a two-hour meeting, David became increasingly agitated and profane, at one point taking his revolver from his holster, the grand jury reported. The sheriff said that if Vranesevich started writing about the uniform contracts as the other reporter had, “I'll blow your (expletive) brains out too.”
At one point, David took a blackjack from his desk, slammed it onto the desk and “shouted that he would beat (the other reporter) worse than I used to beat the (racial slur) in Aliquippa.”
Ochs and Tibolet witnessed the conversation, according to the presentment, which alleges David intimidated them into not reporting what happened.
According to testimony, Fleischman, a Beaver County Jail guard, tried to shake David's hand on Nov. 5, 2011, at a campaign event. David said, “You (expletive), I heard you talk about me. Shake my hand, I'll cut your (expletive) hands off and I'll eat them.”
“If you look at the charges that are there and the individuals who are making these allegations, I think I can leave it at that,” Sainovich said. “(Vranesevich) was … he's a blogger. He's not media because he doesn't have any editors who oversee what he does.”
Vranesevich did not return phone messages.
Sainovich said that in the confrontation with Fleischman, David meant that he'd cut off and eat his own hands before shaking Fleischman's hand and didn't threaten to harm Fleischman.
David is a former steelworker who spent 30 years as an Aliquippa police officer. The state sheriff's association website notes he was shot while on duty in 1975.
In 1996, then-Gov. Tom Ridge appointed David sheriff when Frank Policaro Jr. was named U.S. marshal for the Western District of Pennsylvania. David ran two years later but lost to Felix DeLuca. David became chief of security at the county jail and worked there until he was elected in 2007. He was re-elected in 2011.
Commissioners in February obtained a preliminary injunction against David, saying he was illegally allowing deputies to perform private security work while in uniform. David appealed that ruling to Commonwealth Court.
Aliquippa Mayor Dwan Walker said the racial slur accusation stunned him.
“George was supported by a lot of people in Aliquippa, both black and white. I'm not a judge and jury, but you can't come back from something like that. You can apologize and try to mend fences. But if you have it in your heart to say it once, then you feel that way all the time.”
Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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