Plea offer still in works in Port Angeles bulldozer rampage case

By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — A Clallam County Superior Court hearing to determine the competency of man accused of driving through houses in east Port Angeles with a bulldozer in May has been pushed back two weeks while prosecutors develop a plea offer.

This comes as a requested bail reduction for Barry Alan Swegle, 51, was denied by Superior Court Judge George Wood at a hearing Friday.

“This whole event worries me, so I'm not going to reduce the bail,” Wood said.

No formal offer

Karen Unger, Swegle's retained defense attorney, said during the hearing that she still has not received a formal plea offer from the county Prosecuting Attorney's Office.

“I need a plea offer before I can conclude whether or not I feel Mr. Swegle is competent,” Unger said.

“I have my own concerns about Mr. Swegle's competency.”

The most recent mental evaluation of Swegle by psychologists at Western State Hospital in Lakewood concluded that he is competent to stand trial, though it added that the competency decision is ultimately up to a judge.

Swegle had been deemed incompetent to stand trial and was ordered by Wood on Nov. 1 to undergo restorative treatment at Western State Hospital.

Swegle was returned to the Clallam County jail, where he remains on $1 million bail, during the first week of March.

His jury trial has been delayed indefinitely.

John Troberg, chief criminal deputy prosecuting attorney, said County Prosecuting Attorney William Payne wants to talk personally with the Gales Addition residents whose homes and property Swegle allegedly destroyed before a plea offer is developed.

“I can assure you Mr. Payne and I have discussed this in some detail,” Troberg said.

Troberg said Payne will be out of the office for the next week and unable to interview the victims until the week after.

Wood set the next hearing for Swegle at 9 a.m. April 11 in Superior Court.

Also at Friday's hearing, Unger said Swegle wanted his $1 million bail reduced so he could potentially be released.

“Mr. Swegle has been in jail for almost a year,” Unger said.

Staying away

Unger said Swegle would be prevented from returning to his Gales Addition home because of restraining orders his neighbors have filed against him.

Troberg objected, citing the seriousness of what Swegle stands accused of doing.

“This is an extremely dangerous event, and everyone is extremely fortunate no one was killed,” Troberg said.

Wood denied the request and kept Swegle's bail the same.

Swegle allegedly destroyed or damaged four homes, a tractor, a boat, a pickup truck, a power pole and multiple outbuildings in a Gales Addition neighborhood while on a logging bulldozer he owned May 10 of last year.

Swegle is charged with one count of first-degree assault with a deadly weapon and four counts each of first-degree malicious mischief and first-degree burglary with a deadly weapon — “to wit, a bulldozer.”

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Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at jschwartz@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: March 29. 2014 5:32PM
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