ShareThis Page

Judge acquits Beaver County sheriff on reckless endangerment charge, but other charges to go forward

| Wednesday, July 9, 2014, 11:39 a.m.

Before Beaver County Sheriff George David's defense began its case on Wednesday, a judge tossed out a reckless endangerment charge against the row officer, saying there was no evidence he threatened a reporter with a loaded revolver.

Proving whether the gun was loaded “is an impossible undertaking,” Senior Deputy Attorney General Laurel Brandstetter said.

“No, it's not,” replied Mercer County Senior Judge Francis J. Fornelli, who is presiding over the trial in Beaver. “It's not only possible; it's required.”

Fornelli said that for the reckless endangerment charge to stick, there had to be a possibility of harm and not just a perceived threat.

A jury will decide David's fate on charges of simple assault, making terroristic threats and intimidation of a witness. He is accused of pointing a firearm at Beaver Countian website operator John Paul Vranesevich during an April 16, 2012, meeting in David's office.

Vranesevich testified earlier that David threatened to beat him with a blackjack and pulled out his service revolver and threatened to shoot him, Prothonotary Nancy Werme and Beaver County Times reporter J.D. Prose.

Attorney Phillip DiLucente, a Pittsburgh defense attorney who is not involved in the David case, said the dismissal of the reckless endangerment charge “is extremely significant” to the rest of the trial.

“The jury will know that something had to have happened in favor of the defendant,” DiLucente said. “They likely will be more inclined to acquit than convict.”

Fornelli said Brandstetter never asked Sgt. Mike Tibolet, a witness to the reported confrontation, whether the gun was loaded. Brandstetter said that David waving a gun and wearing a belt with bullets attached to it was proof enough, but Fornelli said the prosecutor hadn't elicited any testimony about whether any bullets were missing from the belt.

Once the prosecution had rested, defense attorney Lee Rothman first asked Fornelli to dismiss the intimidation charges, but Fornelli said a jury could ponder those. Rothman then moved for dismissal of the reckless endangerment charge, saying, “There's not a shred of evidence the firearm was loaded.”

“Bingo,” Fornelli replied.

Earlier Wednesday, Beaver County Prothonotary Nancy Werme denied that she hung onto a political vendetta against David and orchestrated Vranesevich's threat claims — a key part of Rothman's defense.

“I was proud he was sheriff. I thought he wanted to protect and defend, but that's not what he wanted to do. He wanted power and control,” Werme said.

Werme testified that she felt that David and his wife, Linda, hadn't done enough to get her campaign literature passed out on Election Day. After a heated and profane conversation the next morning with Linda David, her chief deputy, Werme said she put the issue behind her.

But the once-solid relationship with the Davids soured, Werme said, with George David not speaking to her. Within weeks of the election, David was introducing around a woman who the sheriff said would be running for prothonotary in the 2015 election, she said.

Linda David left the prothonotary's office after 12 years for another job in a district judge's office in January 2012.

After the April 16, 2012, meeting, Vranesevich called her when he left the courthouse, Werme said, warning her to go somewhere safe.

“The sheriff threatened your life. He said he was going to put a bullet in your head,” Werme said Vranesevich told her.

When she met him at the Beaver police station, Werme said, Vranesevich's pallor was gray, there “was fear in his eyes” and his lip was quivering.

“Something happened in that room for that kid to look like that,” Werme said.

Testimony is scheduled to resume on Thursday.

Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.