Mental competency to be evaluated in Port Angeles bulldozer-rampage case
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Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
Barry Swegle enters Clallam County Superior Court in Port Angeles on Friday for a status hearing. He was clean-shaven after several months of wearing a heavy, jail-grown beard and mustache.

By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Doctors from both the University of Washington and Western State Hospital are likely to be in Port Angeles this week to evaluate the mental competency of a man accused of carving a path of a destruction through a Gales Addition neighborhood, according to a Clallam County deputy prosecuting attorney.

Barry A. Swegle, 51, will appear in Clallam County Superior Court this coming Friday for a case status hearing and to review the progress of his mental evaluation.

John Troberg, deputy prosecuting attorney, said doctors from Western State Hospital in Lakewood will be in communication with Dr. Brian Grant, a UW psychiatrist, to set up a time to evaluate Swegle.

Karen Unger, Swegle's retained defense attorney, said during a court hearing last Friday that she wants to attend as well.

“I think there are some things that don't get revealed unless there's someone there who knows [Swegle's] concerns,” Unger said.

The results of the evaluation will determine whether Swegle is competent to stand trial, which has been delayed indefinitely.

Troberg said no further rulings, including setting a trial date or deciding on any motions, will be made until Swegle's mental competency can be determined.

If Swegle is determined to be incompetent to stand trial, he likely would be sent to Western State Hospital for treatment that could take 90 days or more, Troberg said.

Grant, hired by Unger, and psychiatrists from Western State Hospital already have determined that Swegle's mental capacity was diminished when he allegedly used a bulldozer May 10 to destroy or severely damage four homes, several outbuildings, a pickup truck, a power pole, a boat and a tractor in Gales Addition east of Port Angeles.

Diminished mental capacity does not mean a person cannot stand trial.

$1 million bail

Swegle has been in the Clallam County jail on $1 million bail since May 10.

He is 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.”

Until Swegle's mental state is determined, no ruling can be made on a motion Troberg filed Sept. 19.

He wants to amend the charges to seven counts of first-degree malicious mischief, three counts of reckless endangerment and two counts of residential burglary-aggravated circumstances.

Troberg said his motion followed further investigation and additional interviews with witnesses, adding that Swegle's reported state of mind was not a factor in his decision to seek different charges.

The difference between assault and reckless endangerment is intent to do harm, Troberg explained — “recklessly endangering someone rather than intending to hurt them.

“An assault requires a specific intent to actually hurt someone.”

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

Last modified: September 28. 2013 6:22PM
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