UPDATE — Port Angeles man pleads guilty to 2013 bulldozer rampage
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Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
Barry A. Swegle is shown at a court appearance in Port Angeles earlier this year.

By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — A man accused of a bulldozer rampage in a Gales Addition neighborhood pleaded guilty this morning (Friday).

A July 11 trial date, probably in Kitsap County, had been set for Barry A. Swegle, 52, on Thursday.

Instead, the Port Angeles man faces between 22 and 29 months in prison and payment of $38,000 in restitution when he is sentenced in Clallam County on June 11 at 9 a.m.

Swegle pleaded guilty in Clallam County Superior Court to seven counts of first degree malicious mischief, both Class B felonies, and three counts of gross misdemeanor reckless endangerment.

Swegle spoke little during the hearing, giving one-word answers to Superior Court Judge George Wood’s questions about his plea.

Swegle plowed his logging bulldozer through the neighborhood on May 10, shoving an unoccupied manufactured home into a neighbor’s house, flattening a Ford F250 pickup, breaking a high tension power pole — which left hundreds without power — and seriously damaging two occupied residences, a tractor and a barn.

He had been incarcerated since the event and remained today in the Clallam County jail on $1 million bail.

Neighbors who suffered damage have called for felony charges of assault and “significantly more prison time,” said John Troberg, chief criminal deputy prosecuting attorney.

“We have listened to their concerns, but our felony attorneys have exhaustively researched the possible charges, including assault and attempted murder, and the legal and factual likelihood of convictions on those charges,” Troberg said in a prepared statement.

“We concluded that we cannot bring those charges as not supported by admissible evidence.”

Troberg agreed to dismiss two counts of residential burglary with aggravated circumstances as part of the plea agreement.

Port Angeles attorney Karen Unger, Swegle’s defense attorney, had said in court Tuesday that she intended to file a change-of-venue motion for Swegle’s trial at today’s hearing.

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.

The rampage, reportedly sparked by a long-standing 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.
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Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at jschwartz@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: May 23. 2014 1:08PM
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