The blockbuster story in the Sunday, Nov. 6 edition of the daily newspaper concerned allegations of misconduct by Tony Henderson, the chief assistant public defender and long-time friend of Public Defender James Owens. The impetus for the article was a complaint supposedly filed by Billy Clark about Henderson making harassing telephone calls and lewd comments to his girlfriend, whom the attorney was representing in court system.
The victim, Heather Tramuta, and Clark called the IN because they were upset at how the article portrayed Tramuta.
“I never made any formal complaint or statement against Tony Henderson,” said Tramuta in a phone interview. “I do not work at Sammy’s. I was not fired by Dave Miller. I didn’t feel Tony Henderson could handle my case. I didn’t feel he was handling it appropriately so I sought other legal advice. That’s it. Don’t go after the victim for chrissakes.”
She began to dissect the News Journal’s article, “No. 2 public defender faces possible misconduct probe.”
“The first thing that’s not true is that I worked as a waitress at Sammy’s,” said Tramuta. “Completely false. I was a waitress maybe ten years ago and quit when my son was born.”
The unemployed medical assistant said that she never made a formal complaint against Henderson. Her boyfriend, Billy Clark, said that he shared, in confidence, with a deputy friend his concern over Henderson making a phone call to Tramuta.
“He assured me that he wouldn’t say anything,” said Clark. “Apparently it got right into a reporter’s hand because it wasn’t another week before Heather was contacted.”
He asked his friend what would happen if a public defender started calling his girlfriend after hours, asking her out even though he was her client. The deputy later returned to Clark’s office and asked for more information from him and Tramuta.
“I talked over the phone to the deputy because he was a friend of Billy’s,” said Tramuta, “But never was it said that this was a formal statement or part of an investigation.”
She also challenged the statement that Dave Miller, a former co-worker, and Henderson invited her on a boat “so they could sexually assault her.” “That’s absolutely insane. Who goes up to somebody and says, ‘Let’s go on boat. I’m going to sexually assault you?’”
Sarcastically, Tramuta asked, “Do I pack a swimsuit for that?”
She said that she told the deputy that Miller and Henderson are friends and that Miller did get her a job at a Destin weight-loss clinic where he worked. “We rode together….He’s a jerk. Period. I didn’t want to work with him any more.”
The News Journal article stated that Tramuta had been fired by Miller for not showing up for work. “How could she miss work when Miller was giving her ride every day?” asked Clark.
“My thing (about the boat invitation) was that you have two guys (Miller and Henderson) that are not credible people,” said Tramuta. “Who knows what they could have planned for me? However, I never said they did anything or tried to.”
She said that Henderson never asked her to dinner and perform sexual favors. “Absolutely not.”
Tramuta said that she sought another attorney because she didn’t think her case was being handled as professionally as she wanted it to be done. “I sought other representation.”
While she didn’t make any formal complaint against Henderson, Tramuta said, “I do believe it was inappropriate for him to call me at 11:30 p.m. on a Saturday night. I didn’t like that at all, but I also didn’t feel he was the right person for my case.”
Tramuta was very upset about Sunday’s article and how it may impact her future. “For an unemployed woman, the article hurt my chances of ever finding a job in this town,” she said. “I don’t know how I’m to find a job with the reputation this has given me. Instead of making me out to be the victim, I am made to look like a piece of trash.”
Tramuta was arrested May 23 and charged with fraud and forgery in an effort to obtain a controlled substance after being accused of taking a forged Adderall prescription from her former employer, Dr. Zoltan Erdos, to a Pensacola pharmacy. Her trial is scheduled for Nov. 22.
She told the IN about her case because she believed the article made her appear to be a drug addict.
“The prescription that was written was not even for me,” she said. “They were written out by Dr. Erdos, signed by Dr. Erdos, and his wife is accusing of signing a prescription. One-hundred percent, he signed the prescription. It is his signature.”
The prescription wasn’t for Tramuta and she never tried to fill it. “The medications were for a former boyfriend of mine, which Dr. Erdos had agreed to fill upon a visit. His wife found out about it, flipped out, called the pharmacies and accused me of forging a prescription.”
She believed that publishing her case has also hurt her reputation and any chances of getting a job in the Pensacola area. “I’m single mother,” said Tramuta. “I didn’t want my name drug through this.”
Clark said, “The article made her look like a stripper, pill-head and unaccountable for work.”
Tramuta was also upset how Miller characterized her employment. She said that Miller and Henderson are friends and that Miller had asked him to handle her case.
“When this went down, I called Dave and told him what happened,” she said. “He said, ‘You’re going to need a good attorney. I have a friend.’”
She said that at the time Miller was a friend, but she now considers him a “sleaze bag.” He did help her get a job in Destin after the arrest.
“The job only paid $10 an hour so she couldn’t afford to drive to work,” said Clark about the Destin job and Miller. “He offered her a ride so he could get close to her. I think he’s upset because he couldn’t have her as a girlfriend.”
Tramuta said that she worked at the Destin office to learn the business and so she could work here when a Pensacola branch was opened. She said that she visited a local clinic and texted its prices to Miller. When she did, the office manager called her and said that she was being laid off because there wasn’t enough work. Miller did not fire her.
“She told me that they would rehire me when they opened the Pensacola office,” she said.
When asked about the claim that she had sent Miller flirtatious and threatening e-mails and text messages, Tramuta laughed. “The only text message I sent after Christine said ‘I’m going to have let you go’ was ‘I’m really sorry this happened. You know I was a good employee and I think this whole thing is ridiculous.”
I asked Billy Clark who was behind this story going public. He said, “Whoever is wanting to run against Owens is pushing this very hard.”