Plea deal rejected in Port Angeles bulldozer case

By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — A Port Angeles man accused in a May 10 bulldozer rampage that destroyed homes, outbuildings and other property in Gales Addition has rejected a plea offer from the Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney's Office, his attorney said today.

Karen Unger, attorney for Barry A. Swegle, 52, said her client rejected an offer to serve 57 months, or just less than five years, in prison in exchange for pleading guilty to residential burglary, several malicious mischief counts and a charge related to damaging a power pole May 10.

Swegle stands accused of destroying or damaging four homes, a tractor, a boat, a pickup truck, a power pole and multiple outbuildings in a Gales Addition neighborhood with his logging bulldozer.

Unger declined to comment on her client's reasons for rejecting the plea offer.

Unger had said she wanted a formal plea offer from the Prosecuting Attorney's Office to review with Swegle to help her decide if her client was competent to stand trial.

During today's hearing before Clallam County Superior Court Judge George Wood, Unger said Swegle will meet with Dr. Brian Grant, a psychiatrist form the University of Washington, next Tuesday, who will consult on Swegle's competency.

A mental evaluation completed on Swegle earlier this year while he was at Western State Hospital in Lakewood deemed him competent to stand a trial.

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

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

A Superior Court judge will ultimately decide if Swegle is competent.

Unger said if Grant agrees with Western State's determination, she will seek to set a trial date.

If Grant disagrees, Unger said a hearing will be held in which both sides will present arguments on Swegle's competency.

Swegle is next set to appear in Superior Court on April 25.

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: April 15. 2014 6:22PM
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