A Kennewick police detective who had a private membership at a now-defunct Kennewick gym was grilled Thursday by a defense attorney about his role in a criminal investigation against the gym owner.
Bill Dramis testified in Benton County Superior Court that he questioned 509 Fitness owner Jason Ray Sleater about a $19.60 "gym-enhancement fee" that he said was charged to his credit account without authorization.
"I did identify myself as a detective at that point. I said it sounded to me like there could be some fraud taking place because I didn't authorize it," Dramis said.
Dramis took the standduring the second day of testimony in Sleater's trial. Sleater, 35, is charged with first-degree theft and eight counts of second-degree theft.
Defense attorney Scott Johnson asked Dramis who authorized him to start an investigation into the alleged unauthorized charged. Dramis said he didn't do his own investigation but simply wrote a report about what happened at the request of the on-duty patrol sergeant on the day he questioned Sleater at the former gym at 540 N. Colorado St.
"Why did you identify yourself as a Kennewick police detective?" Johnson asked.
Dramis replied: "I wanted Mr. Sleater to know I had more than the average knowledge of somebody off the street."
Johnson then said: "You wanted him to know who you were?" and "You wanted him to know what you can do?"
Dramis denied both allegations.
Deputy Prosecutor Terry Bloor asked Dramis if he encouraged his mother-in-law or anyone else to write a statement about what happened at the gym or to file a complaint with the police department.
Dramis said no. He also said losing the $19.60 did not break him financially.
Witnesses who took the stand Thursday, including Dramis' mother-in-law Rita Phipps, also were questioned about what happened in the hallway outside the courtroom Wednesday. Johnson asked for a mistrial Wednesday and renewed his request Thursday, alleging Dramis violated his client's right to a fair trial when he talked about Sleater and the case to other witnesses.
Dramis said he was surprised to see one of the women from the gym there as a witness, said hi to her and just asked who else was going to be there because he hadn't seen the others from the gym for a long time.
He did admit to calling Sleater a narcissist during his conversation with one of the witnesses who testified Wednesday when the witness questioned why the case hadn't been settled.
"I said people with narcissistic qualities don't often take responsibility for their actions," Dramis said.
Johnson asked Dramis if he knew based on his experience as a police officer that it is inappropriate to talk to witnesses, but Dramis said he wasn't talking about the case, he was just making small talk.
When asked if he made any kind of mistake Wednesday, Dramis said if he could go back and wait down the hall at the Benton County Sheriff's Office for the day, he would.
"Clearly, there's been some misinterpretation about what was said. Yes, I believe that being involved in that conversation created some doubt," Dramis said.
Also Thursday, Caryle Brown, a Richland certified public accountant, took the stand and said she was hired by Jeremy Appleby, Sleater's partner at the gym, to look at the books to prepare a tax return.
After getting online access to the 509 Fitness bank account, Brown said she determined a total of $73,474 were paid out of the business account to Sleater or Sleater's winery by personal check, electronic transfers, ATM withdrawals and debit card transactions.
Sleater paid back $8,327 to the business account, for a net total benefit of $65,147, she said.
Brown also said Appleby lost a total of $103,889, according to an account of the money he put into the business and business expenses that he paid for out of his personal account.
Johnson questioned if Brown could prove that the money paid to Sleater was not for legitimate business purposes.
"I can say what the activity was in the business account, not what happened after the money left the business account," Brown said.
Testimony resumes today with Dramis expected back on the stand.
-- Paula Horton: 582-1556; firstname.lastname@example.org