June trial date set in Port Angeles bulldozer case; change of venue request coming up

By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — The jury trial of a Port Angeles man accused of tearing through a Gales Addition neighborhood on a bulldozer last year is set to begin June 11.

First, though, the prosecution and the defense in the case of Barry A. Swegle, 52, will meet Thursday to discuss a possible change of venue for the proceedings.

Port Angeles attorney Karen Unger, Swegle’s retained defense attorney, said during a Clallam County Superior Court hearing Tuesday that she intends to file a change-of-venue motion for Swegle’s trial.

She could not be reached for further comment Tuesday.

In past hearings, Unger has said she’s concerned the publicity the case has received could make it difficult to find an impartial jury in Clallam County.

Swegle, who remains in the county jail on $1 million bail, 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.

The rampage, reportedly sparked by a longstanding argument with a neighbor, made news around the world and was the subject of a Sept. 27 episode of ABC’s “20/20” focusing on neighborhood disputes.

Unger and John Troberg, chief criminal deputy prosecuting attorney, agreed to a June 11 start date for Swegle’s trial and estimated it would last at least six days.

Also during Tuesday’s hearing, Troberg filed amended charges against Swegle in the case based on an “exhaustive review of the file and police reports.”

The new charges are: two counts of residential burglary with aggravated circumstances, three counts of reckless endangerment and seven counts of first-degree malicious mischief.

Swegle pleaded not guilty to these charges Tuesday.

Swegle had previously pleaded not guilty to 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.”

“We decided not to move forward with the assault charge after a full review of the police reports and witness interviews and review of the video,” Troberg said after Tuesday’s hearing.

Judge George Wood ruled Swegle competent to stand trial April 25 based on a mental evaluation at Western State Hospital in Lakewood and the opinion of Dr. Brian Grant, a psychiatrist from the University of Washington, who evaluated Swegle earlier that week.

On Nov. 1, Wood ordered Swegle undergo restorative treatment at Western State after declaring him incompetent to stand trial.

Swegle was returned to jail the first week of March.

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

Last modified: May 20. 2014 7:17PM
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