Beaver County sheriff George David charged with making threats to reporter, campaign volunteer
March 26, 2013 12:00 PM
Beaver County sheriff George David
By Molly Born Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Pennsylvania State Police on Monday arrested Beaver County Sheriff George David following an 11-month state grand jury investigation into allegations that he threatened a reporter last year and a campaign volunteer in November 2011.
According to the Pennsylvania attorney general's office, Sheriff David told the volunteer he would "cut [the man's] hands off and eat them" and, months later, said he would "blow [a reporter's] brains out."
"It's not enough for law enforcement officers to simply abide by the law," Pennsylvania attorney general Kathleen Kane said in a prepared statement. "They must also set a good example for others. Sheriff David failed on both counts."
Sheriff David, 65, of Aliquippa, has been charged with 11 misdemeanors: two counts of making terroristic threats, three counts of simple assault, reckless endangerment, official oppression, obstruction of administration or law or other governmental function, and three counts of intimidation of witnesses or victims, according to state police in Beaver.
He was arraigned Monday before District Justice Tim Finn.
Sheriff David's attorney, Myron Sainovich, said his client denies that the two incidents took place the way his accusers describe. Sheriff David is "definitely someone who's strongly opinionated," he said, but he did not threaten the reporter with a gun, and he is not a criminal.
Sheriff David declined to speak to reporters.
In November 2011, Daniel Fleishman, a campaign re-election volunteer for several Beaver County officials -- including Sheriff David -- went to the Democratic campaign headquarters to pick up signs and other items, Cpl. Joseph Olayer of the Gibsonia state police barracks wrote in the state police criminal complaint.
When Mr. Fleishman reached out to shake Sheriff David's hand, the sheriff called Mr. Fleishman a profane name and threatened to cut off his hands and eat them.
A witness, an elected row officer in Beaver County, told investigators that Sheriff David was "going ballistic," Cpl. Olayer wrote.
Mr. Sainovich said his client was referring to himself.
"I think that's what he meant -- that he would cut off his hand and eat his own hand before he [would shake] hands" with Mr. Fleishman, Mr. Sainovich said.
Another allegation came in April.
John Paul Vranesevich, who operates the website The Beaver Countian, told authorities the sheriff threatened him with a gun in the sheriff's office, according to the state police criminal complaint.
In internal reports, the two sheriff's deputies in the room denied anything inappropriate happened because they were intimidated by Sheriff David, one fearing that he would lose his job, according to the criminal complaint.
Mr. Vranesevich and Mr. Fleishman could not be reached.
Sheriff David was released on $50,000 unsecured bond and planned to return to work Monday afternoon, Mr. Sainovich said.
Conditions of his bond include not carrying a firearm, having no contact with his accusers or potential witnesses, and being barred from the courthouse and other county property except for hearings in the case and his duties as sheriff.
Beaver County District Attorney Anthony Berosh said sheriffs in Pennsylvania don't have to carry a gun, or even wear a uniform, and stripping the privilege to carry a firearm is consistent with these charges.
Cpl. Olayer described why Sheriff David was taken into custody and not served a summons.
"This is a crime of violence," Cpl. Olayer said. "We wouldn't be doing our job if we didn't arrest him."
Sheriff David ascended the police ranks during more than 30 years in Aliquippa. He was appointed Beaver County sheriff in 1996-97, to fill out the term of former Sheriff Frank Policaro Jr., was defeated in 1997, ran again a decade later and was elected in 2008.