Attorneys for Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputy Jason Nebergall asked for a mistrial Wednesday after a comment by the woman who accused the law-enforcement officer of attempting to assault her in 2016.
Nebergall, 39, is charged with attempted sexual battery with a deadly weapon and two counts of battery. The woman said the deputy forcefully kissed her, put his mouth on her chest and rubbed his exposed groin against her behind against her will at a mobile home near Greenacres on July 21, 2016.
The Palm Beach Post is not naming the woman to protect her identity due to the nature of the alleged crime.
Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Cheryl Caracuzzo denied the motion for a mistrial, saying the woman’s comments were clarified by testimony from expert witnesses and should not influence the jury.
As Michael Salnick, Nebergall’s attorney, questioned the woman while she was on the witness stand Wednesday, she made a comment about DNA in the case.
“Now you guys say the DNA was not on my butt, but there was (DNA) on my butt,” the woman said.
Jack Fuchs, another Nebergall attorney, argued it was intentionally blurted out and that the way it was phrased made it sound like the DNA was Nebergall’s. He said it makes it sound “like there is evidence (the jury) is not getting.”
The court previously agreed to exclude one DNA analysis relating to the DNA sample from the woman’s behind.
Assistant State Attorney Chrichet Mixon argued the woman never specifically mentioned Nebergall. She also said the DNA testimony clarified any misconceptions the jury may have had by her statement.
In court Wednesday, Celynda Sowards, a senior forensic scientist with the sheriff's office, said she received three DNA samples: one swab taken from the woman’s neck, another from her chest and another from her behind.
Sowards said there were several DNA profiles found in each swab. The results were inconclusive from the swabs of the neck and the behind because there were too many contributors. On the sample from the woman’s chest, one of the three contributors found there stuck out, she said.
After further analysis, Sowards said, she could not exclude Nebergall as a contributor to that DNA sample.
Between July 20 and July 21, 2016, there were three 911 calls to the mobile home about theft and an altercation with a landlord. On the third call, Nebegrall went there and spoke with the woman. He told her he wasn’t going to write a report, but that he would come back later to check on her.
When he came back, without any other deputies, that’s when the attempted sexual battery is alleged to have happened. Though she said she was hesitant to contact the police or provide her name, she eventually did.
During opening statements Tuesday, Salnick said his client is innocent of the charges and that the woman came on to the deputy. He said the woman flashed her breasts at Nebergall and asked him if he wanted to pat her down. Then when he went to leave, she grabbed his arm and he pushed her away. That’s how traces of Nebergall’s DNA was found on the woman, Salnick said.
A taped statement between Nebergall and a deputy in the days after the incident was played in court Wednesday. In the recording Nebergall was asked if he ever touched the woman or if she touched him when he visited her July 21. He said no.
Nebergall, a deputy since 2007, remains on unpaid leave while his criminal case remains open. During his time with PBSO, he has been reprimanded by the sheriff’s office for several incidents of insubordination as well as pulling a gun on a fellow deputy, according to internal affairs reports.