Texas County Sheriff James Sigman appears in court during an earlier appearance. He was indicted in July 2018. Credit: HOUSTON HERALD FILE PHOTO

A circuit judge on Friday ordered a former Texas County sheriff and deputy to trial next month.

Former Texas County Sheriff James Sigman and the former deputy, Jennifer Tomaszewski, were charged in July 2018 with a series of crimes after an indictment by a Texas County grand jury. They will stand trial beginning Sept. 13 in Pulaski County on a change of venue. It is slated to last five days.

The defendant’s attorney, Jason Coatney, asked that the trial be delayed because Tomaszewski continues to suffer affects from a bout of COVID-19. He told Circuit Judge John Beger that she is struggling to recover from the virus and suffers from short-term memory issues, fatigue and continues to see doctors to help her regain her health. The next step, he said, was to see a rheumatologist.  

Special prosecutor for the case is Don Trotter,  Lawrence County prosecutor. An assistant to Trotter, Roscoe Miller, said there had been no medical evidence presented to the court and he opposed separating the case — trying the former sheriff by himself — because as many as 40 witnesses may be called. The pair’s attorney of Springfield agreed he wanted both to be tried together and left the door open that he might present medical evidence to Beger to delay the trial further.

Sigman formally resigned in January 2020 following a three-hour hearing that had been slated to determine whether he should be formally tossed from office. Fifteen people had been scheduled to testify in the matter had there been a hearing. Ten more were on standby. Sigman instead issued a written resignation.

Sigman and Tomaszewski are free on $500,000 bond each.

ABOUT THE ARRESTS

Upon his arrest in July 2018, Sigman was removed under a quo warranto procedure and the county coroner assumed duties the following morning. The Texas County Commission named a former sheriff’s department detective, Rowdy Douglas, to run the department as interim sheriff. In November 2018, county voters elected Scott Lindsey to replace Sigman.  He later ran unopposed for a four-year term.

Following the indictment, Sigman became the first Texas County officeholder in 45 years to be charged with a crime when he and Tomaszewski were arrested while on duty inside the Texas County Justice Center. A report from the Missouri State Highway Patrol said Sigman allowed the woman whom he hired to run the jail and engaged in a romantic relationship –Tomaszewski – to impersonate an officer on multiple occasions, threaten bodily harm to others and physically abuse inmates.

Jennifer Tomaszewski’s mugshot from Shannon County following her arrest. Credit: SHANNON COUNTY JAIL

While Tomaszewski carried out the wrongdoings alleged in the charges, authorities said Sigman was present for the incidents and allowed them. They both were charged with similar crimes: first-degree felony assault, first-degree robbery, felony first-degree endangering the welfare of a child, felony unlawful use of a weapon, felony harassment, felony endangering the welfare of a child, second degree; misdemeanor misuse of official information by a public servant and misdemeanor false impersonation. Sigman was charged again in October 2018 on a felony forgery charge. Tomaszewski was charged with two counts of forgery in December 2018.

Before the charges, about 50 sheriff’s department employees left the employment of the county — after either being fired or quitting. Texas County’s insurance company conducted an investigation amid the rumblings in the sheriff’s department. Nearly all of the department’s deputies left, but rejoined the department after Sigman was charged and arrested. One federal lawsuit alleging mistreatment in the county jail while Sigman was sheriff was settled later for $30,000 to a former inmate and another $76,128 in legal fees. A second federal lawsuit was dismissed.

SIGMAN CASE

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