ITHACA, N.Y. — The trial of Tompkins County Deputy Jeremy Vann continued this week, mostly with testimony from officers who responded to the scene in Enfield where Vann is accused of attacking a woman.
Vann is facing 14 charges — including three felonies — for a series of incidents that happened over a five-month period, coming to a head on March 29 – 30, 2015.
Opening statements Friday were given in front of a jury of six men and six women, laying out the prosecution and defense’s plans for the trial.
Assistant District Attorney Dan Johnson outlined a history of a physically and emotionally abusive “volatile” relationship. He said it ended when Vann allegedly brutally attacked the woman and tried to cover up evidence in the case.
Defense attorney Ray Schlather said the charges against Vann are “simply not true.” He said Vann loved the woman and was trying his best to help her despite her alleged mental health issues.
Did Vann ignore good advice or a direct order?
Undersheriff Brian Robison, of the Tompkins County Sheriff’s Department, testified Tuesday morning about some of the details involving disciplinary action being taken against Vann.
Details of disciplinary action against Vann have previously been unreleased because police officials are not authorized to comment about personnel issues.
Since Vann’s arrest, he’s been on paid suspension duty — a requirement based on union contracting.
According to the website SeethroughNY.com, Vann earned $63,221 in 2016, $68,315 in 2015, $76,017 in 2014, $87,873 in 2013, and $64,073 in 2012.
But Robison testified that there is currently pending arbitration against Vann.
According to Robison, he had a meeting with Vann on March 3, 2015 concerning his relationship with a woman who’d contacted Robison.
The woman told Robison that she and Vann got into an argument on Feb. 28 and he subsequently stole her purse with her credit card inside.
Johnson said during opening statements that Vann stole her items because he wanted to control her and force her to talk to him. Schlather said the entire incident was a misunderstanding and that the woman mistakenly left the purse in Vann’s gym bag, which he took with him after an argument. Schlather said Vann was unaware the purse was in the gym bag, and he returned it shortly after she asked for it.
Either way, Robison gave Vann an order to not come into contact with the woman again.
“It was all encompassing. I’m fairly certain, in the context that it was said, on-duty isn’t really part of the equation. I believe it was understood we were talking about off-duty,” Robison said.
A code of conduct police officers are required to adhere to gives Robison the authority to make orders regarding off-duty behavior.
Robison clarified during his testimony that the order was not considered a disciplinary measure. However, disregarding a direct order is cause for a disciplinary measure.
“Discipline would be some consequences — days off, right up to seeking termination,” Robison said.
And termination is what the department is seeking.
Vann’s defense against this accusation against him, Schlather said, is that Robison did not order him to stay away from the woman. Instead, he though Robison was giving him general advice. Robison clarified on the stand that he gave Vann a direct order to not see the woman.
The Jeremy Vann trial continues Tuesday afternoon.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of a sexual or domestic assault, contact the police or The Tompkins County Advocacy Center here.