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Case of Pennsylvania sheriff accused of assault nears a close

By Elizabeth Daley

BEAVER Penn. (Reuters) - Testimony concluded on Friday in the trial of a western Pennsylvania sheriff accused of threatening to beat up and shoot a local online reporter in the head.

Beaver County Sheriff George David, 67, is charged with assault and making threats against John Paul Vranesevich of the Beaver Countian website at an April 2012 meeting in the sheriff's office where they were discussing contract bidding for departmental uniforms.

Testimony began on Monday. The jury in Beaver County Court of Common Pleas before Judge Francis Fornelli was expected to begin deliberating late on Friday or on Monday.

David's actions toward Vranesevich were "a show of force," prosecutors Laurel Brandstetter said in her closing statement to the jury.

"I did tell you that he had been corrupted by power, and I will look you in the face and tell it to you again," she said.

Vranesevich testified that the sheriff pulled out his gun and said: "I'll blow your brains out."

"I was looking right down the barrel," he said in tears. "I thought I was done. I really thought he was going to pull that trigger," Vranesevich testified earlier this week.

Defense attorney Lee Rothman cited the sheriff's career of more than 40 years in law enforcement as testament to his character and called Vranesevich a "gadfly" seeking notoriety.

"He's an actor, that's what he was doing," Rothman said.

Vranesevich said the sheriff also threatened him with a blackjack, quoting David as saying: "You start writing stuff, I'm going to beat you to a pulp."

In 1981, David, a former steelworker, was acquitted of charges that he hit two local residents with a blackjack.

In this case, prosecutors accused David of violating conditions of his bail, including talking to witnesses, and the judge placed him on house arrest, according to local media.

The Beaver Countian covers local news in the region just northwest of Pittsburgh.

(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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