Date to be set for trial of man arrested in 2013 bulldozer rampage
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Barry A. Swegle enters the courtroom Friday for his competency hearing. —Photo by Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News

By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — A Port Angeles man arrested after a rampage through homes, outbuildings and other property with a bulldozer will have his day in court.

Barry A. Swegle, 52, was deemed competent Friday to stand trial, almost a year after the frenzy in Gales Addition east of Port Angeles.

A jury trial date is expected to be set this coming Friday in Clallam County Superior Court.

“Mr. Swegle is ready to go to trial,” Karen Unger, his attorney, told Judge George Wood.

Swegle's original trial date of Sept. 24 had been postponed until his mental competency to stand trial could be determined.

Earlier this month, Swegle turned down a plea offer from the Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney's Office.

He 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, Unger said then.

On Friday, Wood also denied Unger's second request in two months to reduce Swegle's $1 million bail. Unger last made the request at a March 28 Superior Court hearing.

“I'm going to keep the bail where it stands,” Wood said.

Wood said his competency ruling was based on a March 6 mental evaluation of Swegle at Western State Hospital in Lakewood.

He also said his ruling was based on the opinion of Dr. Brian Grant, a psychiatrist from the University of Washington, who evaluated Swegle last week.

“Dr. Grant met with Mr. Swegle. He believes he's competent,” Unger said before Wood made his ruling.

On Nov. 1, Wood ordered Swegle undergo restorative treatment at Western State Hospital.

Swegle was returned to the Clallam County jail the first week of March.

He 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 May 10.

He 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.”

The rampage was reportedly over a fence dispute with a neighbor.

Unger asked for a bail reduction Friday because of the length of time Swegle has been in custody.

“I don't think there's any question he can appear in court as directed to [if released],” Unger said.

John Troberg, chief criminal deputy prosecuting attorney, objected, citing a public safety risk.

“Mr. Swegle has apparently not the slightest interest in the lives or property of others,” Troberg said.

“It is a significant danger to public safety.”

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

Last modified: April 27. 2014 12:13AM
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