After co-defendants James Sigman and Jennifer Tomaszewski, the former Texas County Sheriff and former jail administrator, took the unusual step of testifying in their own defense Thursday morning, Circuit Judge John Beger convicted both of felony forgery on charges stemming from her time cards.
He had previously dismissed nine of 10 charges against Sigman and six of 10 against Tomaszewski, and ruled earlier Thursday morning that prosecutors hadn’t provided enough evidence to back up their claims that Tomaszewski had attempted to cause serious physical injury to an inmate, had attempted robbery of a cell phone from a woman outside a Houston home at which a search warrant was being served, or was impersonating a law enforcement officer when wearing a jail uniform similar to a deputy uniform.
The case was being tried in the Pulaski County Courthouse at Waynesville this week on a change-of-venue from Texas County since original plans called for a jury trial; Missouri law gives residents of small counties an automatic right to transfer their case to another county where they won’t be known to the residents.
Sentencing is 1 p.m. Oct 22 in Waynesville if a sentencing assessment report is completed. Both face up to seven years in state prison.
During her testimony Thursday, Tomaszewski strongly objected to the prior testimony of witnesses against her, accusing them bluntly and loudly of lying. She said a group of women who had approached her at the scene of a search warrant were doing so aggressively and her display of a firearm was justified.
“There was a woman who came off the porch screaming at me, ‘You have no F-ing right to be here; he doesn’t even live here,’” she said, referring to one of the men being sought by the South Central Drug Task force in their search warrant. “I knew we had a right to be there… all three of the women were coming at me, screaming and cussing.”
Tomaszewski said the display of a firearm happened as they came closer and disregarded verbal commands to back off.
“As soon as they got close enough, I pulled my weapon and they kept coming toward me,” Tomaszewski said. “There was no time for a conversation. I had to pull my weapon and tell them to get back… I could hear the woman on the phone… I had told her, ‘Drop your phone, get back.’”
Tomaszewski said the women using their phone were naming a man police had arrested and saying the people they were talking to should “get out of the house.” Tomaszewski said she didn’t know if all the houses being searched had yet been contacted by police, and for officer safety purposes needed to stop the phone call.
“The one girl, she dropped the phone in the grass,” Tomaszewski said, but regarding a second woman, the one whose phone Tomaszewski was later accused of committing robbery by taking it from her, “she was another story.”
Tomaszewski adamantly denied she pointed her gun at the woman’s baby in her arms.
TIME CARD TESTIMONY
During testimony on time cards which showed she was working during times that prosecutors presented evidence she was either sick, or attending class, or attending her daughter’s track meet, Tomaszewski said the time cards were sometimes filled out after the time worked and may have been efforts to reconstruct the times she worked based on her recollection. She also said the times she was attending classes at a sheriff’s training academy were frequently being changed by the instructors and posted times for the classes changed due to weather or other reasons, so she may have actually worked in the jail at times when her time records show her working at the same time as she was scheduled to be in classes.
Her time as jail administrator was very stressful, Tomaszewski said, due to taking over the administrator role at a facility that already had serious problems before she was hired as an entry-level jailer. She said dealing with the jail problems brought her closer to the sheriff and led to a close friendship becoming romantic.
“I was a single mother trying to run a jail that was dysfunctional, trying to raise a daughter, trying to go to school,” she said. “We were very close and the jail kept making us closer… I can tell you it was a bad time.”
Under cross-examination by Special Prosecutor Don Trotter, Tomaszewski admitted that what began as a professional relationship moved beyond friendship and became a physically romantic relationship.
“You’re not husband and wife but you live as husband and wife. That gets you around the nepotism rules,” Trotter said.
Defense attorney Jason Coatney objected. “That calls for a legal conclusion,” Coatney said.
The judge sustained Coatney’s objection.
Under questioning from Trotter and Coatney, Sigman provided far more details of the jail dysfunction mentioned by Tomaszewski, among them the arrest of five jailers for providing contraband to inmates. There were also two escapes and a fire, which Sigman said justified firing the previous jail administrator. Sigman said unlike the previous jail administrator, Tomaszewski was actually following the written policies of the jail manual and was getting “backlash” from other employees “from actually following the policies, and being told, ‘This is how we do it.’”
“So the people she was reporting to were saying, ‘Forget the manual, this is how we do it’?” Coatney asked. “So you were cleaning house, was that a fair statement?”
Sigman concurred, and said he faced an open rebellion by sheriff’s department employees when he promoted Tomaszewski to jail administrator.
“They said if I didn’t fire her, all five would quit and they’d take half my jail staff with them,” Sigman said.
While admitting that his relationship with Tomaszewski eventually became physical, Sigman denied that was initially the case and said claims he was dating his jailer from shortly after the time she was hired were false and based on rumors, not facts.
That didn’t satisfy prosecutors who said some actions may not be covered by a jail policy manual but still create problems.
“Did you think it was okay to be approving her time cards while you were sleeping with her?” Trotter asked.
“What did that have to do with it?” replied Sigman.