Beaver County sheriff banned from certain offices in his department
Ruling that Beaver County Sheriff George David violated terms of his bond while facing charges that he threatened a journalist with a gun, a judge said on Friday that any further contact with witnesses likely would mean imprisonment until his February trial.
“Absent (obeying the conditions), I think that's what will happen at the next hearing,” Mercer County Senior Judge Francis J. Fornelli said. David remained free on $50,000 unsecured bond.
Fornelli banned David from criminal offices in the county courthouse basement, where deputies Mike Tibolet and Tom Ochs work. Both could be witnesses to David's confrontation with John Paul Vranesevich, operator of the Beaver Countian news website.
Fornelli said he could not ban David from the courthouse, because to do that would constitute removing David from office, which he lacks the authority to do. David can only work in the civil department, where his office is located, to avoid any contact with Tibolet and Ochs.
For the second time since David was arrested in March and charged with misdemeanor offenses including making terroristic threats, simple assault, official oppression and obstruction of justice, the state Attorney General's Office accused him of violating conditions of his bond by having contact with witnesses. Both Tibolet and Ochs said they had several direct interactions with David, but they were duty-related and David did not mention his case.
Fornelli said he was most concerned with testimony by Tibolet that David told Chief Deputy Jay Alstadt to tell Tibolet that he was not to blame for the attorney general's second bond revocation request.
“The chief said that the sheriff wants me to know he's not upset or mad at me,” Tibolet testified.
“That sets very close to tampering with a witness in my mind,” Fornelli said.
Vranesevich, who claims David threatened him with a gun during an interview, testified that on July 16, as he was examining documents in the county controller's office, Deputy John Fratangeli made an obscene gesture to him and took a picture of him. Vranesevich testified he felt he was being intimidated.
Ochs testified that after he pulled surveillance video during an investigation into the allegation, David summoned Ochs into his office and told him, “Nobody gets a copy of the video without going through (me).”
Fornelli said there was no evidence that David was involved in the alleged Fratangeli incident. Solicitor Myron Sainovich said after an investigation the department decided there was no reason to discipline Fratangeli.
David's trial is scheduled to begin on Feb. 24. Other conditions of his bond, including that he can't carry a gun and can only be in the courthouse for official business, remain in effect.
Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or firstname.lastname@example.org.