By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News
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Clallam County Superior Court Judge George L. Wood on Monday postponed the trial of Barry A. Swegle, 51, so Swegle can have a mental competency evaluation from a psychiatrist, Dr. Brian Grant of Seattle.
Grant will determine if Swegle is mentally competent to stand trial.
A review hearing on the competency evaluation is set for 9 a.m. Sept. 27.
“I have no idea when the trial will be at this point,” Port Angeles lawyer Karen Unger, representing Swegle, said Monday.
Doctors for Swegle and the county Prosecuting Attorney's Office have already determined Swegle's mental capacity was diminished when he allegedly boarded his bulldozer May 10 and, in about 10 minutes, destroyed, severely damaged or outright moved four homes, a pickup truck, a power pole, a boat, a tractor and several outbuildings.
Swegle has been charged with six counts, including assault. He is in the Clallam County jail on $1 million bail.
Unger and Deputy Prosecuting Attorney John Troberg have agreed to offer a plea deal to Swegle.
“I think it's a little fast for him,” Unger said in court Monday.
“I want to make sure Barry is comfortable with it and he understands what's going on.
“Hopefully, by the end of this week, Brian will be out here to see him.”
Diminished capacity results in the defendant being convicted of a lesser offense, according to www.law.cornell.edu.
The plea offer came after Swegle's evaluation of diminished capacity, which Unger discussed with Swegle on Friday.
“The conversation we had [Friday] led me to believe he might not be [mentally] competent,” she said Monday in a later interview.
“This has nothing to do with the offense itself,” Unger said.
“It has to do with whether he is competent, whether he is able to assist in his defense, understands what's going on around him and what's going on with the process.”
At a court hearing Friday, Swegle tried firing Unger.
Swegle said he was upset with Unger for not bringing to court his neighbor Dan Davis, whose property suffered the most damage during the bulldozer attack and with whom Swegle had a long-running dispute over a fence that divides their property.
In a later interview, Unger said that with the trial date so close, she could be taken off the case only with the court's permission.
Mental competency is “the ability to understand the nature and effect of the act in which the individual is engaged,” according to Black's Law Dictionary.
Swegle has been charged with 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 incident, which made international headlines, will be featured in an episode of ABC News' “20/20” focusing on extreme neighborhood disputes that is scheduled to run Friday on KOMO-TV at 10 p.m.
A Peninsula Daily News reporter and neighbors whose property was damaged in the rampage were interviewed for the program.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.