Editor’s Note: This story contains details of domestic abuse. If you or someone you know has been the victim of domestic or sexual abuse, contact The Advocacy Center here.
ITHACA, N.Y. — The woman who is accusing Tompkins County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeremy Vann of attacking her on multiple occasions, stealing her items and tampering with evidence took the stand Monday morning, going on for hours about their lurid relationship.
Vann is facing 14 charges that span the time period of several months — from December 2014 to March 2015. He denies the charges against him and has rejected multiple plea deals in the case which would have required him to serve no jail time.
Opening statements for his trial began March 17.
Related: Opening statements: Did Tompkins deputy attack woman or was he trying to help?
In the first serious topic broached Monday, the woman was asked by Deputy District Attorney Andrew Bonavia about an incident that happened Dec. 20, 2014 after a holiday party gone wrong.
According to the woman, she and Vann attended a work party and she began to feel embarrassed by how much Vann was drinking and the things he was saying.
So they left the party, and she drove home in her own vehicle while Vann tailed her. Initially, the woman said she thought he was driving to his own home because she had to be home by 1 a.m. and Vann wasn’t allowed at the home she shared with her parents.
But he kept following her, and she eventually pulled over in the long driveway leading toward her home, where the two began arguing.
“I don’t completely remember the argument. I do remember that he pulled a gun out of his center console of his truck,“ she said. “He pulled the gun out and was pointing it to his head.”
She said she’d seen the gun on previous occasions and decided it would be best for her to just get in her vehicle and continue to drive toward her home.
Within a span of about 34 seconds, she received two texts from Vann and then heard a gunshot.
“I heard the gun go off, and I instantly looked in the mirror, and I saw him fall on the ground,” she said. “I got out of the car, and I grabbed my cell phone and ran up to him and started dialing 911. And he just got up and acted like everything was fine…I was really, really upset. I just got in my car and drove all the way home. He got in his truck and followed me.”
The woman said he followed her to her house and started making a scene until her sister went downstairs to talk to him.
According to text messages displayed in court, Vann wrote to the woman in two texts, “I’m at your door,” and, “Open or I’ll wake everyone up.”
During cross-examination, attorney Ray Schlather argued that even if the woman was driving very slow — 10 mph, for instance — she still would have been too far away from Vann to see him fall to the ground in the dark.
She said she doesn’t know how fast she was driving and maintains that she saw Vann fall to the ground after the gunshot.
The woman described two more incidents on Jan. 15 and 29 when Vann and her got into arguments in the parking lot of Island Health and Fitness in Ithaca.
She said that on Jan. 15, “We had gotten in some kind of argument in the parking lot and he basically tackled me into my car…grabbed my phone out of my hand got in his truck and drove away.””
In the other instance, he allegedly ended the argument by stealing her phone and then throwing it out his truck window.
On Jan. 30, during a long series of text messages, the two argued more and Vann became upset when she didn’t answer his texts quickly enough. She texted him, “U need help.”
By late February, the woman said their relationship was beginning to sputter out.
“I still really cared about him, but I felt kind of smothered and I started getting interested in other people,” she said.
She lied to him in a series of texts where she said she was at her grandmother’s house, but went out with friends instead.
Vann allegedly found out she lied and went to a home where she was staying the night with several friends. He is alleged to have begun banging on a door and calling and texting the woman repeatedly, so she asked a male friend to ask him to leave.
“Jeremy started walking away. I heard him leave. He was screaming down the driveway. He got in his truck and left,” she said.
Shortly afterward, she left the home too because she was embarrassed about what happened.
When she got in her vehicle, she noticed that her purse was missing, which had her ID card and credit card inside of it.
She and Vann began exchanging text messages after that.
During the long exchange, Vann told her the relationship was over. Among the texts she sent him, she wrote:
“I just want my stuff back and I don’t want to ruin your career.”
“I don’t want to mess with your job.”
He texted her back, calling her a “Slut” and saying, “Nobody likes you.”
He also began texting her father about their relationship.
After Jeremy allegedly refused to give her back her purse, she told Vann’s brother about the incident and got her purse back the next day. But it was still missing her ID, so she told an Ithaca Police officer — who she knew personally — about the incident.
Shortly afterward, the woman received a phone call from Undersheriff Brian Robison, of the Tompkins County Sheriff’s Department.
“I did not want him to lose his job,” she said. “I did want him to stay away from me.”
Related: Will Tompkins Deputy Jeremy Vann lose his job, regardless of the outcome of the trial?
At this point in the relationship, Robison previously testified that he ordered Vann to stay away from the woman. Vann says he thought Robison was giving him good advice, not a direct order.
The woman went on to say that the two didn’t see each other or communicate much until March 10, when she went to drop off a few of his clothes and gifts he’d given her.
The two talked and eventually ended up back together.
Soon afterward, the woman went to Florida to spend time with her parents for a week. When she got back home, her relationship with Vann reached a boiling point.
“I thought that we were together. I had a feeling that he was talking to someone else at the time, as well,” she said.
The woman said she began to suspect Vann was seeing a woman named Galit Poole because she’d previously seen the two together at a bar, though Vann assured her they were just friends.
Poole testified last week that she and Vann were in an intimate relationship with each other.
This led to two confrontations between the woman — at Moonies Bar & Nightclub on the Ithaca Commons and at Island Health and Fitness Center.
On March 24, the woman and Vann got into another explosive argument, this time about an alleged pregnancy.
The woman said she tested positive for a pregnancy, but subsequent tests showed that she was not pregnant. Despite knowing that, she called Vann to her home and told him she was pregnant and had an abortion.
“Honestly, I think that I was just — I cared about him a lot and I wanted to gain control over the situation and that was a really bad way of doing it. But that’s how I chose to handle it at the time,” the woman said.
On March 27 into the hours of March 28, Vann and the woman argued more as a fight broke out while they were at Moonies nightclub.
The two made up the same night but went home separately.
The woman decided, at some point, that she wanted to see Vann after all and went to his home where she found him with Poole.
Outside of his home, she pounded on his door and called and texted him repeatedly.
“If you have someone in there, you can just tell me and I’ll leave,” she said she told him.
Eventually, Vann came out of the home and the two got into an argument where Vann tried to physically force her into the back seat of his truck. The woman did not want to get in the truck and braced her legs against the frame, kicking off of it.
“He got really angry and threw me on the ground…he kicked me,” she said. “I just gave up and he picked me up and put me in the back seat of his car.”
Poole previously testified that she was looking through a windown and saw Vann throw the woman to the ground during the incident.
Vann then drove the woman home and the two argued more.
When he left, she texted him a photo of a gun and said that he shouldn’t have left her alone with it.
“I wanted him to come back and just explain to me what was going on,” she said. “He did come back…We just argued some more, and he put the gun away and then he left again.”
The two went out again on March 28 and woke up together on March 29 where they allegedly had a great day together, eating breakfast and going horseback riding.
Later that night, while Vann cooked dinner, the woman said he mentioned that Poole had texted him.
The woman began texting Poole from the bathroom, and the two exchanged detailed, mean texts to each other about their relationship with Vann.
When Vann found out what was happening, he took the phone away from the woman and they argued and made up by having sex.
“The relationship was very up and down, and when we did that, it calmed the situation down,” she said.
Shortly afterward, the two had dinner, but the woman was still mad about the text messages and began texting Poole again.
From there, the woman testified that the night escalated into as nightmare.
Vann allegedly pinned her down to take the phone from her, ripping her blue sweatshirt off.
“He picked up my coffee table and smashed it on the floor and then got on top of me again and took my phone,” she said.
As the two argued, she said she threw a bottle at the wall and Vann got more angry and choked her. He smashed her foot between a door and a stair.
The two eventually began fighting on the floor of a hallway.
“I just thought that if I didn’t move, he would just calm down,” the woman said. “And then he brought his fist back and said ‘Do you want me to hit you?…He kept, not slapping me, but hitting me in my face to make me look at him.”
She was eventually able to wiggle away from him, kick at him and run outside where she hid in the back of one of her father’s trucks for several minutes.
When she eventually went back to the home because she was cold, Vann was loading the coffee table and gifts he had given her into his truck.
The woman smashed a vase on the ground as they argued more and Vann allegedly threw the woman over a garden fence.
He then told her the police were on the way to the home and left.
Cross-examination continues at 9 a.m. Tuesday morning in the Tompkins County Courthouse.