Monday, March 10, 2014
By BETTY ADAMS Kennebec Journal
BANGOR – When contractor Frank Monroe asked Chelsea Selectwoman Carole Swan how she wanted a $10,000 kickback, she was explicit.
Staff file photo by Betty Adams
"Cash, big bills," Swan replied.
The exchange was one of 10 recorded phone calls jurors heard Tuesday at Swan's trial on extortion charges in U.S. District Court.
In the Jan. 31, 2011, call about the kickback that was related to a bill for sand, the two discussed how Monroe was to submit the inflated bill to the town and how he was to pick up the check.
Monroe testified Swan demanded that he submit a bill for sand that he had not delivered and kick back $10,000 to her. He told the prosecutor that she voiced a concern that the call might be recorded – which it was.
"She knew that this was illegal," he said.
Monroe said he previously paid her $3,000 and $7,000 out of his own money, but did not want to bilk the town.
In the tape, Monroe wonders aloud about cashing such a large check. "Do you think they're going to give me a hard time?"
Swan responds, "I do this all the time. I built Jake's house that way."
Jacob Swan, her older son, lives in a house along the same lane as his parents' home, which is under contract to be sold, according to multiple listing information.
In opening remarks Tuesday, U.S. Attorney Donald Clark labeled 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."
The federal prosecutor said Swan 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 is on trial for the second time, following her July convictions on tax and workers' compensation charges. At that trial, she claimed that she was abused by her husband, Marshall Swan, which led her to commit the crimes. This time, she faces federal extortion charges.
In a trial brief filed by Swan defense attorney Leonard Sharon, he states that 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."
Sharon said that explains why she failed to tell Kennebec County Sheriff's Office deputies during a 90-minute videotaped interview about her own solo investigation of Monroe.
The prosecutor, Clark, in court filings, sought to block testimony about domestic abuse. "When specifically asked about her relationship with her husband during her confession (to deputies), she said that she would be safe, did not need an alternative place to live, and that during a telephone call taken during the course of the interview, her husband told her he loved her."
Clark also said, "If the defendant testifies, the government should be permitted to impeach her by evidence of her criminal convictions for tax and workers' compensation fraud."
In a written ruling issued Monday, Chief Justice John A. Woodcock Jr. said he would allow Swan's testimony that domestic abuse led to her actions.
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."
Betty Adams can be contacted at 621-5631 or at: