BEAVER, Pa. - The trial for a Beaver County sheriff charged with threatening to cut off a political campaign worker's hands and shoot an online news reporter began Monday.
Deputy Attorney General Laurel Brandstetter told the jury the case is “about absolute power, corrupting absolutely.”
“The sheriff of Beaver County used power and intimidation in an attempt to silence the media and silence those who would testify against him,” Brandstetter said.
Beaver County Sheriff George David, 67, was charged in March 2013 with the incidents that allegedly began in November 2011.
David is accused of threatening John Paul Vranesevich, operator of the Beaver Countian website, with a blackjack and a gun during an April 16, 2012, interview inside David's office in the Beaver County Courthouse.
Defense attorney Lee Rothman said Vranesevich's accusations were born from a political vendetta by county Prothonotary Nancy Werme.
Rothman said Werme felt that David hadn't worked hard enough for her in the 2011 election.
Rothman added that Vranesevich is trying “to take away everything my client has worked for his entire life.”
Earlier this year, he was put under house arrest and made to surrender 700 personal firearms after a judge found he didn't comply with bail conditions.
David remains in office because county officials are powerless to remove him because he's an elected official, and state legislators, who have that power, haven't taken up the cause.
David, a former steelworker, began his law enforcement career in 1972, in the former steel town of Aliquippa. He was shot in the foot in 1975 in gunplay that left a man dead.
In 1996, former Republican Gov. Tom Ridge appointed David as sheriff to replace Frank Policaro, who became a U.S. Marshal in Pittsburgh.
When he lost an election bid in 1997, David went to work in the Beaver County Jail, becoming its chief of security. In 2007, he won election as sheriff.
Channel 11’s news exchange partners at TribLIVE contributed to this report.
June 19, 2013 -- Beaver Co. Sheriff accused of making threats appears in court
June 3, 2013 -- Prosecutors allege Beaver County sheriff violated bond
April 30, 2013 -- Beaver County sheriff headed to trial on threat claims
March 25, 2013 -- AG: Beaver Co. sheriff threatened to 'blow reporter's brains out'