BANGOR – The prosecutor labeled former Chelsea selectwoman Carole Swan “a corrupt, elected public official” who “misused her office to attempt to extort $20,000 from a local construction company that plowed and sanded Chelsea’s roads.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Donald Clark made those remarks in opening statement this morning at Swan’s trial on three extortion charges.
He also said she substituted pages in a contract – without the knowledge of the other two selectmen – converting a one-year extension of a snowplowing contract to two years. The town contract was with Frank Monroe Construction of Whitefield.
Swan’s defense attorney, Leonard Sharon, deferred his opening statement, and the prosecutor called former Town Manager Robert Drisko as the first witness.
Swan, 55, who spent 19 years on the town’s Board of Selectmen, most recently as chairwoman, was convicted in July of tax and workers’ compensation charges and cleared of federal program fraud, but the three extortion charges were separated out prior to that trial.
This morning, a new jury of seven men and seven women heard instructions from Chief Justice John A. Woodcock Jr., both about the extortion charges and about Swan’s pleas of not guilty.
In a ruling issued Monday, Woodcock said he would allow Swan’s “proposed testimony about her history of domestic violence to explain the circumstances and voluntariness of her statements to law enforcement …”
Sharon’s trial brief says, “The defense will ask the jury to consider that the domestic abuse created in Carole a propensity to tell male authority figures what she believed they wanted to hear, and to accept personal blame for events when accused of wrongdoing even when she was without fault.”
However, Woodcock also granted the prosecutor’s request to tell the jury of Swan’s July 26 convictions on six criminal charges “for impeachment purposes if the defendant testifies.”
At the previous trial, Carole Swan testified she was conducting an investigation of Monroe, claiming the town’s plow contractor was shorting the town of sand and using town sand for his private plowing business, confiding this only to her husband and a couple of other townspeople.
To further this investigation, she said she got friendly with Monroe and even had his wife over to the house.
“I made him believe I was like superwoman and I could control everything over (in Chelsea),” she said. She said she told him she managed it so her husband Marshall Swan could get all kinds of work, and she would do the same for Monroe.
“The only way I could get him at his game was to get on his level,” Swan said.
She said she confronted him about shorting the town sand and demanded $3,000 from him in January 2010.
In December, she got another $7,000, she said. Swan was questioned by detectives from the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office after she allegedly asked Monroe for another $10,000 in January 2011 and he reported it to deputies at the sheriff’s office.
The deputies set up a sting, recording a series of phone calls between the two and picked up Swan in Augusta minutes after the last exchange, which occurred on Chapel Street in Augusta on Feb. 3, 2011.
Swan’s trial in U.S. District Court in Bangor is expected to go into next week.
This story will be updated.
Betty Adams — 621-5631