Port Angeles bulldozer-rampage trial could hinge on mental evaluation
Barry A. Swegle
By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News
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A status hearing for the 51-year-old Port Angeles resident that was held Tuesday in Clallam County Superior Court was continued to 3:15 p.m. Thursday by Judge George L. Wood.
Brian Grant — a University of Washington associate professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences hired by Swegle's attorney Karen Unger to examine Swegle — determined that Swegle suffered from “diminished [mental] capacity” at about noon May 10 when he allegedly went on a bulldozer rampage, county Deputy Prosecuting Attorney John Troberg said in an earlier interview.
Unger did not return calls for comment Tuesday afternoon.
Swegle next will be examined by a Western State Hospital doctor on behalf of the Prosecuting Attorney's Office.
Could change case
“Obviously, if they agree with diminished capacity, it could change the case,” Wood said.
“If they disagree with Swegle's expert, then we have to go to trial.”
“A successful plea of insanity will, in most states, result in a verdict of not guilty and commission of the defendant to a mental institution,” according to www.law.cornell.edu.
“'Diminished capacity,' on the other hand, merely results in the defendant being convicted of a lesser offense.”
Authorities said Swegle boarded his own bulldozer and damaged or destroyed four homes, a power pole, outbuildings, a boat and a pickup truck, causing an estimated $300,000 damage over what they said was a dispute over a fence. No injuries were reported.
Swegle remained Tuesday in the Clallam County jail on $1 million bail.
“Reports on in-jail evaluation cases are generally completed in one to three weeks,” said Shana Clark, the hospital's secretary supervisor-evaluation coordinator, in a letter acknowledging the referral.
Reported completed Sept. 6
It does not appear Western State will complete a report on Swegle until at least Sept. 6, just three days before jury selection, Wood said.
“Independent of what the report says, obviously it will be an issue if the case is settled or we have to go to trial.”
Unger told Wood she and Troberg “had a discussion” Tuesday morning that she would be talking to Swegle about later this week.
“Mr. Swegle, I can tell you, wants to go to trial,” she said.
“He wants to get this done.”
Swegle is charged with one count of first-degree assault with a deadly weapon, four counts of first-degree malicious mischief and four counts of first-degree burglary with a deadly weapon — “to wit, a bulldozer.”
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reporter Jeremy Schwartz contributed to this report.
Last modified: August 27. 2013 5:57PM