Testimony in a trial against a former Kennewick gym owner accused of improperly charging a "gym enhancement fee" to members continued Friday with a Kennewick police detective who was a member of the gym defending his actions.
Detective Bill Dramis said he didn't do anything wrong last year when he was off duty and assisted an on-duty patrol officer who had been called to a disturbance at the now-closed 509 Fitness gym.
Dramis also said he did believe Jason Ray Sleater had committed fraud after he discovered 509 Fitness had made an unauthorized $19.60 charge against his credit card account, but he did not start the investigation or conduct his own against Sleater.
Sleater, 35, is charged in Benton County Superior court with first-degree theft and seven counts of second-degree theft.
Defense attorney Scott Johnson has claimed this is a case of revenge against his client after Dramis got mad that Sleater swore at him and kicked him off the gym's property when questioned about the fee.
Deputy Prosecutor Terry Bloor asked Dramis if there were any department rules about off-duty officers assisting an on-duty officer or anything unusual about him not being in uniform when he assisted an on-duty officer at the gym.
Dramis said it's not unusual and he didn't know of any policy or procedure that would prohibit what he did. He also said Chief Ken Hohenberg is a proponent of backing up the department's officers and Hohenberg "would be the first person to do something off-duty."
"We have a duty to protect. We have a duty to serve," Dramis said. "In the city of Kennewick that is taken pretty seriously."
Johnson asked if it would, however, be unusual for Dramis to identify himself as a member of the police department and start his own investigation.
"I didn't start my own investigation, sir," Dramis said.
A couple of inconsistencies did come up during Friday's testimony.
Dramis' mother-in-law, Rita Phipps, also was a member at 509 Fitness and testified Thursday. She was questioned about a letter she wrote to Dramis about the unauthorized charge on her account. She said she wrote it after she reviewed her contract because he didn't have a copy of his contract.
She said Dramis is part of her family and it's not unusual that she wrote a note to her son-in-law.
When Dramis was questioned Friday about the letter, he said he provided a copy of it to Kennewick police at his Phipps' request since it was easier for him to just drop it off when he went to work. He also said he did not know why the letter was addressed to him.
Johnson also questioned Dramis about the report or statement he wrote regarding what happened when Sleater kicked him off the gym property. Dramis said the patrol supervisor that day, Sgt. Mike Genack, asked him to give an account of what happened and he provided a summary of the incident.
Dramis said he was asked to write a statement as a witness. When Genack took the stand later, however, he said he asked Dramis to write an "officer's report" after learning that Sleater indicated he was going to file a complaint with the chief.
After reading Dramis' report, Genack said he thought there could be a criminal incident so he forwarded the report to Detective Sgt. Jack Simington to review to determine if it warranted further investigation by a detective.
Bloor asked Genack if Dramis asked him to send the report to detectives. Genack said no, that it was his decision.
"Who really got the ball rolling on this investigation?" Bloor asked.
Genack replied: "I would say it would be me. I was concerned about what was going on and I was concerned that the owner of the business said he was going to complain to the chief."
Genack also said it would generally be advisable for an off-duty officer to contact someone who is on-duty if something happens unless it's an emergency situation. But, he also said most officers would offer assistance whether they were on duty or not if they came onto a scene where an on-duty officer needed help.
Genack said based on what he knew about the situation, he didn't believe Dramis did anything wrong and he probably would have done the same thing if he was in Dramis' situation.
Johnson asked if Genack knew if there was a department policy about that or if that would also be the chief's position. Genack said he didn't know.
Johnson later told Judge Bruce Spanner that he intended to request a transcript of Genack's testimony, provide a copy of it to Chief Hohenberg and call Hohenberg as a witness.
Sleater's business partner, Jeremy Appleby, also testified Friday about how he lost money after he joined as a partner in the gym, and how when he questioned Sleater after the gym enhancement fee, Sleater told him it was OK to charge.
"I took for granted that everything he said was golden," Appleby said.
He said Sleater also created a template of a new membership contract after the gym closed that included a line about gym enhancement fees. Appleby testified that Sleater said nobody keeps their contracts so that new contract would save them.
Appleby received about $4,000 from the business account and third-party billing company after the gym closed, and Johnson asked if he used that money to refund the contested enhancement fees. Appleby said no.
No charges were filed against Appleby, who retained attorney Jim Egan and provided a statement to Detective Rick Runge, who is the lead investigator on the case.