Police chief, mayor testify in court
Personal differences and agendas among city police officers and a former cop surfaced Wednesday in the second day of testimony in U.S. Middle District Court at the civil trial over allegations a Williamsport Bureau of Police captain unlawfully confiscated Little League pins in 2008 from a local couple.
Before the jury is the question of whether then-police Capt. Raymond O. Kontz III illegally seized the prized pins of Randy and Janete Shrey at their home in July of that year. The counts facing Kontz include the illegal seizure of property and conversion, or confiscating the pins without lawful justification.
Add to the mix the revelation in testimony Wednesday that police may have had agendas against each other, based on testimony of city Police Chief Gregory A. Foresman.
Foresman testified that city Patrolman Jimmie Rodgers, presently on the 49-officer force, and former police Lt. Thomas H. Ungard Jr., who had overseen the Lycoming County Drug Task Force and was found to have appropriated task force property for his own personal use, were the sources encouraging Randy and Janete Shrey to approach Lycoming County District Attorney Eric R. Linhardt’s office to complain about the pin confiscation two years after it happened in 2010, which is prior to the statute of limitations expiring.
Foresman said based on findings by the district attorney’s office investigation, the city police conducted their own internal investigation, done by Agent Donald Mayes.
The conclusion of Mayes’ investigation was that Rodgers was a source who assisted the Shreys and that Ungard also was behind giving the couple information that would lead to their civil suit, Foresman said.
Kontz was in charge of the department’s internal affairs and Rodgers was under investigation in the department, according to Foresman.
Foresman, when asked whether he took part in making up a story about receiving a complaint from Little League International security that pins with its trademark logo were being sold over the Internet without the organization’s permission, called the accusation “ludicrous.”
Foresman testified that the police department office Manager Donna Bower received a telephone call from a security officer at Little League who was told about a Williamsport police badge pin on the Internet and the man was concerned about its authenticity and possible misuse at the World Series taking place the following month.
Bower, office manager for 29 years, testified she received a call before Kontz’s visit to the Shreys from James Ferguson, assistant director of risk management for Little League, who contacted the department about the city police badge pin.
Bower said the only time she saw the pin was when it was printed out on paper. “It looked like a police badge,” she said.
Taking the stand, Ferguson said he received notice about the pin from a co-worker who brought it to his attention. Ferguson intimated he was not technologically savvy and would not look on eBay or another Internet site, where the pin was circulating.
Foresman said he had Kontz, a captain in charge of the criminal investigative division at the time, look into where the pin was made and who was selling it.
“I asked Ray if he knew about anybody selling a pin or replicating our badge,” Foresman said. After determining it was not anyone within the police department, Foresman said, under questioning by the Shrey’s attorney, Michael J. Zicolello, he assumed Little League had trademarks, as did the city, and was concerned.
County First Assistant District Attorney Kenneth Osokow was contacted because of his knowledge of law before Kontz and Sorage visited with the Shreys about the souvenir pin with the city police badge, Foresman said.
Mayor Gabriel J. Campana testified that when he took a telephone call from a distraught Janet Shrey, he referred the matter to Foresman. Campana said it is his practice to delegate to various department heads he entrusts. Campana said he wanted to see the police department’s internal investigation after learning from Foresman that rules and regulations were not completely followed regarding the documenting of confiscated Little League pins as evidence.
Lt. Brett Williams, who was a sergeant five years ago and the then-department’s evidence and property officer, testified Kontz should have filled out a property log, but added it was not uncommon for “detectives,” which Kontz was in charge of as head of the criminal investigation division, to hold evidence before turning it over to the evidence room.
“Rock solid,” was the term Foresman used to describe Kontz’ trustworthiness.
“He is a decorated officer with minimal civilian complaints, and none that would have resulted in discipline until he didn’t fill out the proper forms,” Foresman said.
Former Agent (Detective) Stephen Sorage, now working as a county detective, testified and said Kontz asked him if he was aware of any violation of the law regarding the pin. “I remember going to the crimes code and section regarding badges,” Sorage said. The possible infraction was trademark counterfeiting and possibly using the Little League logo could be a violation, he said.
Sorage said they decided, because it was not an area of the law city police dealt with extensively, to contact Osokow at the district attorney’s office who files most of the appellate briefs. Sorage said he was present when Kontz placed the call to Osokow.
Sorage also countered claims made earlier by Randy Shrey that Kontz’s voice was anything but conversational, and he denied seeing Kontz point his finger at Shrey. Sorage said there was no impression left the Shreys were scared or intimidated.
As for a receipt promised after the pins were taken, Sorage said, “They may have asked for a receipt. We don’t have a receipt form.”
Sorage said they went to Kontz’s office, laid out the pins and Kontz put them back in a box.
As for the reason for taking the pins, Sorage said he believed, based on conversation with Osokow, there was probable cause for investigating. “Otherwise,” he said, “we wouldn’t have gone to the Shrey residence.” Sorage said he did not count the individual pins, and after that day did not see them again.
Sorage was asked whether fellow county detectives held something against Kontz.
“I believe some of the detectives don’t like (him),” he said. When probed further as to why he thought that, Sorage replied to another question about Kontz’s reputation for honesty. “His reputation for honesty has not come up. I have never overheard that in conversations with other detectives,” Sorage said.
Sorage said it was his own belief there is some dislike by some detectives based on their expressions and tones when they bring up his name.
Janete Shrey testified that Kontz used a threatening tone until her husband, sick with a intestinal disease, turned over the box of pins. She and her husband had amassed 12,000 pins and her husband, she said, had no idea he did anything wrong.
“He (Kontz) was aggressive and put a finger in front of my husband’s face,” Shrey said.
Kontz, she said, told the couple the department got about 100 calls about the League League pin replicating a city police badge, but told her husband, ” ‘Don’t call Little League, I already took care of it.’ “
Janete Shrey said the couple was saddened over losing all of the money and no longer having the pins, which sold from between $8 to $10 and up to $30 apiece for trading.
She said her husband called Little League and “they knew nothing,” and either that same day or the next she called Campana.
Kontz, she said, called back in about 30 minutes angry about the Shreys involving the mayor. She testified she knew of no evidence Kontz sold the pins, but that the district attorney’s office has in its custody 141 fewer pins than what was turned over to Kontz.
Throughout the trial the exact number of pins has been a matter hard to track and never set in stone because the Shreys acknowledged on the stand that they may have sold some and found some more after Kontz visited their house.
Earlier in the trial, Kontz testified that he told the Shreys they could “rectify” the situation if they turned over the property.
“He first said my husband could be charged with a felony,” Janete Shrey said.
“I know what that means that means you can go to jail.”
Zicolello rested his case Wednesday with David MacMain then calling defense witnesses. Testimony continues today before Judge Matthew W. Brann.
Brann is not scheduled to be in the office Friday.