The trial for a suspended city police officer accused of using his position as a public employee for personal gain resumes today in Lycoming County Court with visiting Potter County Senior Judge John B. Leete presiding.
Opening statements were heard Monday afternoon following jury selection in the case against Thomas H. Ungard Jr., who is accused of allegedly using his position as coordinator of the Lycoming County Drug Task Force to falsify the purchase of confiscated vehicles, illegally obtain drug task force money and take property for personal gain.
Ungard, who is representing himself after waiving his right to an attorney earlier this year, is charged with tampering with public records, criminal conspiracy, theft by failure to make the required disposition of funds, obstruction of justice and conflict of interest.
Meanwhile, Ungard's former co-defendant, Dustin J. Kreitz, entered a no-contest plea to a misdemeanor charge of theft by unlawful taking for stealing a television. In exchange for the plea, Kreitz agreed to cooperate with the state Attorney General's office and is expected to testify this afternoon.
During his opening statement, Deputy Attorney General Michael A. Sprow advised the jury to remain focused on the matter at hand and not be misled by any of the tangential matters the defense may try to present.
"Keep your eye on the schemes. Keep your eye on the charges," Sprow said. "What we have here is a very simple case of a public employee using his position as a police officer for personal gain."
In his opening statement, Ungard reminded the jury of the prosecution's burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
"I admit I did some things wrong, but we're here today to determine if anything I did was illegal," Ungard said. "I stand before you an innocent man. If you think I might be guilty. then you have to find me not guilty."
Sprow presented several witnesses Monday including retired city police officer John McKenna.
McKenna spoke about a fishing trip he took with Ungard to Canada using a forfeited Ford F-150 truck in June 2006. The trip, he said, was "purely a vacation to relax from the stresses of being a police officer in the city of Williamsport."
The investigation into Ungard's activities while overseeing the drug task force was initiated after the fishing trip.
During his testimony, McKenna said Ungard told him the reason he used the truck owned by the drug task force was because he couldn't find the owner's card for his personal vehicle.
According to the drug task force policy presented as evidence by Ungard, the policy on vehicle use allows for forfeited vehicles to be used on a case-by-case basis with the approval of the drug task force coordinator or assistant coordinator. Ungard, at the time of the trip, was the coordinator and said forfeited vehicles often were used in investigations for the narcotics units in the city.
McKenna acknowledged narcotics officers are given more latitude because of their undercover status and sometimes are asked to assist law enforcement in other counties and forfeited vehicles may be used in those situations.
"(But) I highly doubt we in Lycoming County would be asked to assist anyone in Canada," McKenna said.
The prosecution also presented Donna Reed, paralegal and administrative assistant for then-District Attorney Michael Dinges, as witness. Reed testified to speaking on the phone with Ungard regarding the trip to Canada and a transcribed copy of her notes from that conversation was admitted into evidence.
Reed's notes indicated that Ungard told her the reason he and McKenna traveled to Canada was to visit a drug task force in Ontario and then visit someone in Syracuse regarding an investigation.
However, they since have found out there was no drug unit in Ontario and were unable to make contact with the person in Syracuse.
Reed's testimony will continue when the trial resumes at 8:30 a.m.