Judge agrees Port Angeles bulldozer rampage trial should be moved to Kitsap County

By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — A Port Angeles man accused of destroying homes and property last year with a bulldozer will have his day in court — 80 miles east of Port Angeles.

The jury trial of Barry A. Swegle, 52, all but officially has been set to move to Kitsap County after Karen Unger, his defense attorney, filed a motion for a change of venue in Clallam County Superior Court this week.

During a Thursday morning hearing, Superior Court Judge George Wood said he had read the motion and agreed with it.

“I also find good cause for the change of venue,” Wood said.

“In my 21 years on the bench, I have never seen a case that has had more publicity than this one.”

Unger requested that the formal order for the change of venue be entered today during a 9 a.m. Clallam County Superior Court hearing so she could review her motion.

“This event received worldwide attention, and was the subject of an ABC News segment on their newsmagazine 20/20 (in fact, this was aired twice),” Unger wrote in her motion.

“I know of individuals who were vacationing in Italy and saw this reported on the local news. YouTube videos abound, and it is hard to imagine that there is anyone in Clallam County that is not aware, nor has not formed an opinion, about this event.”

John Troberg, chief criminal deputy prosecuting attorney, said he will not oppose the motion, based on the local pretrial publicity the case has received.

“I would have to concur with Judge Wood's comments,” Troberg said Thursday after the hearing.

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.

Swegle has pleaded not guilty to two counts of residential burglary with aggravated circumstances, three counts of reckless endangerment and seven counts of first-degree malicious mischief.

Troberg said the order to move the trial and set a new trial date will be entered at 9 a.m. today in Clallam County Superior Court.

Troberg said he and Unger had come to an informal agreement for July 14 as a trial start date in Kitsap County.

In a Tuesday hearing, Swegle's trial had been set to start June 11.

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.

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

Last modified: May 22. 2014 7:25PM
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