Pt. Angeles man gets 29 months in prison for bulldozer rampage

Pt. Angeles man gets 29 months in prison for bulldozer rampage
A crushed truck and a house knocked off its foundation sit as part of the aftermath of a rampage by a man driving a logging bulldozer on Friday, May 10, 2013 in Port Angeles, Wash. (AP Photo/The Peninsula Daily News, Keith Thorpe)
PORT ANGELES, Wash. - A Port Angeles man who used a logging bulldozer to tear through his neighbors’ homes and other property last year apologized Wednesday.

Barry Swegle, 52, expressed remorse as he was sentenced in Clallam County Superior Court to a little more than two years and four months in prison and ordered to pay restitution.

“I’d like to say I am sorry to all the parties involved in this,” said Swegle, who pleaded guilty May 23 in the May 10, 2013, bulldozer rampage that made international headlines.

“I am not the type of person that wrecks property or tries to hurt people — never have been, never will be.”

But for the son of one of Swegle’s victims, those words and the sentence handed down were not enough.

“I don’t believe him,” said Dan Davis Jr., 58, after the sentencing hearing. “I think it was just a great injustice for the public,” he added, referring to the plea deal the Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office negotiated with Swegle and his attorney, Karen Unger of Port Angeles.

Swegle had pleaded guilty to seven counts of first-degree malicious mischief, both class B felonies, and three counts of gross misdemeanor reckless endangerment.

He was accused of destroying or damaging four homes, a tractor, a boat, a pickup truck and several outbuildings, and knocking down a power pole, causing an outage that affected thousands of Clallam County Public Utility District customers.

Jefferson County Superior Court Judge Keith Harper imposed 29 months in prison, the maximum sentence allowed.

John Troberg, chief deputy Clallam County prosecuting attorney, had recommended 24 months.

“The acts that occurred here were quite remarkable and extraordinary and unusual,” Harper said.

Dan Davis Jr.’s 75-year-old father, also named Dan, was one of several people in the subdivision east of Port Angeles whose home or other property was damaged or destroyed during the rampage.

The elder Davis’ primary residence and a manufactured home he owned on East Pioneer Road, as well as numerous pieces of property, including a boat, a tractor and his beloved Ford F-250 pickup truck, were destroyed.

Dan Davis and his wife, Mary, also 75, felt they were the main targets of Swegle’s bulldozer that day.

The rampage was reportedly triggered by a longstanding disagreement over a fence Davis had built on his property along the driveway Swegle used to access his land.

“We wish it had been a jury trial,” the senior Dan Davis said after the hearing.

Said Barbara Porter, 75, whose home and shed were damaged when the bulldozer pushed the Davis’ manufactured home into hers: “I wish he would have gotten more, but I can understand why it went the way it did.”

Rebecca Rand said the bulldozer tore through the kitchen of the house she was living in.

“It wasn’t a fair sentence,” Rand said after the hearing.

The sentence also did not sit well with Jeff Swegle, Barry Swegle’s older brother, who was disappointed the judge did not follow Troberg’s 24-month recommendation.

“I don’t think that was a fair move,” Jeff Swegle, who did not attend the hearing, said later.

Troberg read statements from Porter, Rand and two of Davis’ children during the Wednesday hearing, for which Rand, the Davises, their son and daughter, and Porter were present.

Port Angeles attorney Lane Wolfley, representing the Porters and the Davises, described Swegle’s actions as “the antitheses of civilized behavior.”

The Davises had said they would not be satisfied with a plea deal that did not include an assault charge against Swegle, Troberg said.

“(Swegle’s) rampage totally destroyed our properties and almost took our lives,” Dan Davis wrote in a victim impact statement filed in Superior Court.

Mary Davis was inside the Davises’ home asleep the morning of May 10 as Swegle’s bulldozer approached, Troberg said.

She got out of the home, alerted by a frantic call from her husband, just before the multi-ton machine tore through three of the home’s four sides.

Based on reviews of police reports and witness statements, Troberg said the evidence did not support assault charges.

“If I could have had some level of felony assault under the available evidence — were it to be assault one, assault two or attempted murder — I certainly would have,” he said during Wednesday’s hearing.

Both Dan Davises said they appreciated the work Troberg put into the case and that Harper imposed the maximum sentence possible under the circumstances.

Unger said during the hearing that Swegle only intended to destroy property, not hurt people.

“If Mr. Swegle did want to kill anyone, he would have gotten in his bulldozer in the middle of the night when everyone was asleep and ran right over them,” she said.

Troberg estimated the total damage caused at about $400,000.

Swegle must pay restitution of $38,000: $20,000 to the Davises, $10,000 to the Clallam County PUD for the power pole and $8,000 to the Porters.

Harper set a July 31 hearing to determine any additional restitution.

Jeff Swegle, who has power of attorney over his brother’s property, has said $28,000 has been paid to the court for distribution to the victims and that he has made payments to the PUD for the power pole.

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