At least one victim of bulldozer rampage unhappy with plea deal
Barry A. Swegle
By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News
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“It’s not what we thought justice was,” Dan Davis, 75, said.
Swegle, 52, had pleaded guilty that morning to seven counts of first-degree malicious mischief, both class B felonies, and three counts of gross misdemeanor reckless endangerment stemming from the destruction his bulldozer wrought May 10, 2013, and agreed to pay restitution.
Davis — who feels he and his wife, Mary, were Swegle’s main targets — declined to comment further, preferring to collect his thoughts on the matter and present them at Swegle’s June 11 sentencing hearing.
The plea deal was reached soon after a June 11 trial date had been set. Swegle’s attorney, Karen Unger of Port Angeles, had filed a motion to have the trial moved to another county, citing news coverage of the case.
The rampage, reportedly sparked by a longstanding argument with Davis, made news around the world and was the subject of a Sept. 27 episode of ABC’s “20/20” focusing on neighborhood disputes.
Another neighbor whose home was damaged when Swegle’s logging bulldozer cut a swath of destruction through the neighborhood said she was pleased the case had ended.
“For me, I’m glad it’s going to be done,” said Barbara Porter, 73.
Swegle left four homes damaged or destroyed and laid waste to outbuildings, a Ford F-250 pickup truck, a riding lawn mower, a boat and a power pole, which cut electrical power to thousands of people.
Swegle must pay restitution of $38,000: $20,000 to the Davises, $10,000 to the Clallam County Public Utility District for the power pole and $8,000 to the Porters.
He had been incarcerated on $1 million bail since the rampage. He had been declared incompetent to stand trial Nov. 1. Superior Court Judge George Wood declared him competent April 25 after he had restorative treatment.
Swegle spoke little during Friday’s hearing, giving one-word answers to Wood’s questions about his plea.
John Troberg, Clallam County chief criminal deputy prosecuting attorney, has recommended a prison sentence of 24 months, though the final sentence will ultimately be up to Wood.
Swegle had initially 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.”
The charges were amended last week to two counts of residential burglary with aggravated circumstances, three counts of reckless endangerment and seven counts of first-degree malicious mischief.
The burglary charge was dismissed as part of the plea agreement.
It was the second plea deal that had been offered Swegle. He turned down the first one in April.
Troberg and Prosecuting Attorney William Payne developed the most recent plea offer after considering what they could prove in court.
“This decision wasn’t made in a vacuum,” Payne said. “We really did exhaustively analyze this case.”
Unger said after the hearing: “I think the case was resolved in a reasonable fashion.”
She said she feels Swegle pleaded guilty to what he actually did and that the initial assault charges did not reflect what happened.
“There was never any intent to hurt anybody,” Unger said. “His intent was to damage property.”
Jeff Swegle, who has power of attorney over his older brother’s property, said $28,000 has been paid to the court for distribution to the victims.
He also said he has been paying $500 per month to the PUD for the past year for the toppled power pole.
The bulldozer itself likely will be auctioned off, he added, with the proceeds going toward restitution requirements.
Swegle also is required to stay 1,000 feet away from the residences of the Davises and the Porters for the next 10 years and have no contact with them.
This effectively prohibits his moving back to Gales Addition. His family agrees this is best.
“We feel the best place for Barry is out of town,” Jeff Swegle said.
Porter, who has known Barry Swegle since he was a boy, said she feels sorry for him.
“He messed up his life really,” Porter said.
“I’m glad it’s all over, and maybe he can find some peace with himself and get on with his life, is what I’m hoping.”
Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last modified: May 25. 2014 10:44AM