Man accused in bulldozer rampage brings show-and-tell bag of bugs into courtroom
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Peninsula Daily News
Barry Swegle at a court hearing in July. A Clallam County corrections deputy holds the bag brought into the courtroom Wednesday.

By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — A Port Angeles man accused of bulldozing several pieces of property — including houses — in Gales Addition brought a bag containing dead bugs he said were in his jail cell to a Wednesday court hearing.

Barry Swegle told his assigned defense attorney, Karen Unger, that he wanted to show presiding Clallam County Superior Court Judge George Wood the plastic bag containing bugs he said he collected from his Clallam County jail cell, where he is being held on $1 million bail.

“I want the judge to see them. There are thousands,” Swegle told Unger during the status hearing.

“There are all kinds of bugs that I've had to live with.”

Wood declined to look at the bag, telling Swegle he would need to speak with jail administration to complain about the cleanliness of his cell.

Clallam County Jail Superintendent Ron Sukert said later that he had seen the bag.

“I was shown the bag a short time ago, and it contains what looks like some dead ants and bugs,” Sukert said.

“There was nothing living in the bag.”

Sukert said jail staff had been made aware last week of ants that had gotten into the cell where Swegle is being held and brought in an exterminator to kill them.

“The issue of the insects was dealt with last week,” Sukert said.

An exterminator sprays the jail on a regular basis to prevent insects from getting in, Sukert said, though individual cells do sometimes see more insects during the warmer months of the year.

“In the summer months, when bugs are out moving around, is when we have experienced it in the past,” Sukert said.

Swegle is being held in a cell with one other inmate, Sukert said, and shares a common day room with another two-person cell.

Swegle, 51, is accused of using a bulldozer he owned to damage or destroy four homes, several outbuildings, a boat, a pickup truck and a power pole along North Pioneer Road in Gales Addition just east of Port Angeles on May 10.

Swegle has pleaded not guilty to one count of first-degree assault with a deadly weapon, four counts of first-degree burglary with a deadly weapon — “to wit, a bulldozer” — and four counts of first-degree malicious mischief.

Swegle next will appear in Clallam County Superior Court this Friday at 9 a.m. for a case status hearing.

Before Swegle presented the plastic bag during Wednesday's hearing, Clallam County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney John Troberg told the court Swegle could have to wait two weeks to undergo a second court-ordered mental evaluation, which Troberg requested last week.

“It will probably be at least another two weeks before it is done,” Troberg said.

Troberg said he requested the evaluation from Western State Hospital in Lakewood so he could prepare for the diminished-mental-capacity defense Unger likely will use in Swegle's jury trial.

Swegle's trial remains scheduled for Sept. 9, a date Unger said she and her client are prepared for.

“As you have maybe figured out, Mr. Swegle is very anxious to get this done,” Unger said.

“Agreeing to continue it to [Sept. 9] was a stretch.”

Wood told Troberg to contact Western State Hospital to advise officials there of Swegle's approaching trial date and that Swegle's evaluation should be made a priority.

“I'll certainly do that,” Troberg told Wood.

Wood said he understood, however, that the prosecution has a right to perform its own evaluation even though it could lead to pushing the trial date back.

“If the evaluation can't be done in time and the state's not going to be ready, then we would need to look at a continuance,” Wood said.

On Aug. 2, Unger requested Swegle's trial be delayed from Aug. 12 to Sept. 9 so Unger could review the mental evaluation she had done on Swegle by Dr. Brian Grant, a clinical associate professor at the University of Washington in psychiatry and behavioral sciences.

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

Last modified: August 21. 2013 10:53PM
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