Sunday, March 9, 2014
By Betty Adams firstname.lastname@example.org
BANGOR -- The extortion trial of former Chelsea selectwoman Carole Swan will be in the jury's hands today, a judge said as testimony ended Monday afternoon.
The fifth day of Swan's trial in U.S. District Court in Bangor was a memorable one, with the defendant on the stand.
At one point, she offered to go to her truck to get $10,000 in kickback money paid to her more than two years ago by Whitefield contractor Frank Monroe.
Earlier in the day, the judge threatened to hold her in contempt of court for mentioning past acquittals against the judge's demands.
Swan testified she had been investigating Monroe for defrauding the town of Chelsea by billing it for sand he didn't deliver when she was caught in a sting arranged by Kennebec County Sheriff's Office deputies working with Monroe.
She didn't tell deputies that, however, in a 90-minute interview on Feb. 3, 2011, shortly after they photographed her in her truck on a snow-banked Augusta street getting a sting package from Monroe -- not the $10,000 she was expecting.
Monroe had gone to authorities several days earlier saying Swan, then head of the town's selectmen, had sought bribes from him three times. He paid her $3,000 and $7,000 in 2010 but balked at bilking the town when she demanded a $10,000 payment in late January 2011.
On Monday, Swan testified she had the earlier $10,000 in cash in an envelope locked in her pickup truck outside the courthouse.
"Do you want me to go out and get it?" she asked.
No one took her up on that offer, and Swan testified that she had the kickback money in her handbag on Feb. 3, 2011, when deputies interviewed her. However, they didn't arrest her or search her truck then.
She testified that she intended to take that $10,000, plus the $10,000 she expected to get from Monroe, to the town's attorney.
Within the first few minutes of Swan's testimony Monday, the judge admonished her for mentioning past acquittals, threatening to hold her in contempt of court.
U.S. District Court Chief Justice John A. Woodcock Jr. ruled last week that there was no legal method for this jury to be told of her acquittals in July, only her convictions.
"You deliberately disobeyed the ruling of this court and you did it consciously and knowingly," Woodcock said, warning her she would be in contempt of court if she continued "to blurt things out."
The jurors were out of the courtroom when that exchange occurred, having been ordered to leave by Woodcock after Swan told them of two acquittals last month in response to a question from her attorney, Leonard Sharon.
Swan was convicted by a different jury in the same courtroom July 26 of two counts of federal workers' compensation fraud and five counts of falsifying income tax returns by failing to declare about $650,000 in income from Marshall Swan Construction, the earth-moving company owned by her and her husband.
She was cleared of a separate charge of federal program fraud related to the Windsor Road culvert project, work done by Marshall Swan.
The prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Donald Clark, opened cross-examination of Swan on Tuesday by asking her about her convictions July 26 on felony fraud charges.
He also asked her about the deputies' interview, saying she had confessed about eight minutes into the 90-minute session. She said she lied to deputies because she did not trust them and she "did not feel as though (she) could tell them what was going on."
Swan said she told deputies what she believed they wanted to hear in order to get out of the interview room and report to to her husband, Marshall Swan, who she has said is abusive.
Carole Swan testified Monday she left Marshall Swan in late June after their younger son graduated from high school. However, she said she has not filed for divorce.
While she told deputies Marshall Swan knew nothing about the kickback scheme and that she was "the guilty party," on Monday she said Marshall Swan knew she was investigating Monroe.
At an earlier hearing, Carole Swan testified that except for numbers, she couldn't read or write. On Monday, she repeated earlier statements about having poor reading skills.
"In my eyes, I believe that," she said, adding that she has been on medication for the past 20 years for a shoulder injury she suffered while working as a rural mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service.
She said she was able to read addresses but "barely" passed an examination to work for the post office, and that she frequently took copies of town contracts home so family members could read them to her.
On Monday, however, Carole Swan had no problem reading rapidly through several paragraphs of a transcript.
She is charged with three counts of violating the federal Hobbs Act, which addresses public officials using their office to extort money. Each count carries a maximum prison term of 20 years and $250,000 in fines.
Betty Adams -- 621-5631