Swing found guilty of lesser charges

The Miami Township Police Explorer uniform belonging to the victim rests on a wall in Judge Victor Haddad’s courtroom on Aug. 24, 2016. Former Miami Township Police Sgt. John Swing, who was on trial for inappropriately touching the former explorer, sits in the background.

The Miami Township Police Explorer uniform belonging to the victim rests on a wall in Judge Victor Haddad’s courtroom on Aug. 24, 2016. Former Miami Township Police Sgt. John Swing, who was on trial for inappropriately touching the former explorer, sits in the background.
By Kelly Cantwell

After a two-week trial, former Miami Township Police Sgt. John Swing was found not guilty of all four original charges, but instead was found guilty of three lesser charges.

Swing, of Milford, was accused of three counts of gross sexual imposition, a third degree felony, and one charge of assault, a first degree misdemeanor.

The victim accused Swing of touching her three times: on her buttocks, her vaginal area and her upper thigh. All of the incidents occurred on April 16, 2015, once in the basement of Swing’s home and twice in the squad car, Assistant Prosecutor Scott O’Reilly said in September 2015.

The victim is also accusing Swing of assault, which occurred when Swing wrestled with the victim in the basement of his home.

The victim was a 20-year-old in the police explorer program with Miami Township at the time of the incident, a program where teenagers and young adults ages 14-21 can volunteer for the township police and ride along with officers, O’Reilly said in September 2015.

Swing was fired from his position at the Miami Township Police Department on Sept. 1, 2015, according to a release from the police department.

The jury found Swing not guilty of assault, and guilty of three counts of sexual imposition, a lesser charge. Deliberations, which began Sept. 1, were restarted on Sept. 2 after issues came up that required the replacement of two jurors, which is not uncommon, O’Reilly said.

Swing’s sentencing hearing will be held on Oct. 6 at 10 a.m.

The victim, who is now 21, was an active Miami Township Police Explorer for four years until the incident. She described the day in her testimony.

The victim said she was taking a ride-along with Swing, which was abnormal, as police explorers do not typically ride with sergeants. After responding to a call asking them to check on an elderly woman, the two stopped at Swing’s home, but the victim did not think anything of it because she had been to police officers’ homes before.

Swing invited her down to the basement, where the victim said they wrestled and he spanked her. After leaving the basement and getting back into the car, at other points in the day he touched her inappropriately in his cruiser.

“I was told not to tell anyone and that no one would believe me,” the victim told O’Reilly during her testimony.

She also said she was afraid to bring the charges against Swing for multiple reasons, but that she ultimately decided to, after talking to her mother and some of her friends.

During his cross examination with the victim, Joshua Engel, Swing’s attorney, pointed out inconsistencies in her initial interviews compared to her testimony during the trial. He asked her a lot about her phone, which she did not submit as evidence.

“There was nothing I had to hide,” the victim said.

Engel also pointed out that in her initial interview with the Miami Township Police Chief, Sue Madsen, she did not mention that Swing touched her vagina at a stop sign, just that he had touched her vagina.

“That’s another significant change in your testimony, right?” Engel asked.

When O’Reilly was allowed another chance to speak to the victim, he pointed out that the victim is a police explorer, not a police officer, and thus would not have known all the things that would be needed for an investigation. He also confirmed with the victim that this incident is the first time she has given a written or an oral statement.

Others who testified included some Miami Township police officers, friends of the victim and other alleged victims.

On Aug. 29, the prosecution called three other alleged victims to the stand who each testified against Swing.

A corrections officer at the Clermont County Jail stated that Swing put his arm on top of hers and rubbed her leg during a ride along when she was an intern at the police department.

She said she also received multiple texts from Swing that included lewd comments about her and that made inappropriate suggestions.

Another alleged victim, who worked as a bank teller at Park National Bank in Milford from 2006 to 2010, said that Swing, a customer at the bank, would touch her hand during transactions, which made her feel “uncomfortable.”

“No other customers touched my hand when I was counting back money for them,” she added.

She also said that Swing got her phone number, unbeknownst to her, and called to tell her that his wife wasn’t home and asked her if she wanted to come over.

She added that as she was returning from lunch one day, Swing called her over to his car and “exposed himself and asked me to touch him.”

She told her manager about the incident, but they never called the police.

“[Swing] was a regular customer, and I didn’t want to start trouble,” she said. “He was a cop, and I just tried to blow it off like it was nothing.”

A third alleged victim, a nine-year veteran with the police department, said that Swing, her supervisor for six years, touched her in an “uncomfortable” way on three separate occasions.

She said that in one instance Swing touched her leg as the two were eating dinner with another officer. In another he grabbed her thigh while the two were sitting in a common room at the station, and in response the alleged victim asked him to stop, but he didn’t, so she tased him. Swing also put his hand down the back of her pants as the two were walking to investigate a known trouble spot in the area.

The alleged victim, who said she made it clear to Swing that she didn’t want him to touch her, said she never told anyone because, “I thought I had handled it.”

She went on to explain why, during preliminary interviews for the case, she said Swing had not touched her.

“I just wanted to go about my job and collect my paycheck,” she explained. “I didn’t want to be involved in any of this.”

The defense called Sgt. Kevin Petrocelli from the police department, who saw Swing and the victim of this case on the day of the incident. He testified that the victim was acting normal and that she did not try to get his attention.

The defense also called Sherry Howard, a road patrol officer from the Miami Township Police Department. Swing was one of her training officers. Anne Tamashasky, attorney, questioned her about what she has seen of the victim’s character.

“I would not say that [the victim is] a liar, but I could see her embellishing some of her stories,” Howard said. She also described the victim as goofy.

Upon cross examining the officer, O’Reilly pointed out that many 20-year-olds are not mature, and asked if Howard has ever known of the victim lying to her.

“I have not know [the victim] to lie to me,” Howard said.

The closing arguments were given on Sept. 1.

“You look at all the circumstances surrounding that day, you look at what the defendant’s specific intention was, was it to sexually gratify? I submit that the evidence is very clear,” O’Reilly said.

He pointed out that Swing was a 50-year-old veteran police officer with a gun and with power, while the victim was a 20-year-old woman who loved sour patch kids and wanted to be a police officer.

O’Reilly went over things that the victim said and did during the trial to indicate that she was not making anything up.

“Does that testimony sound like a fabricated conspiracy,” O’Reilly asked the jury.

He also pointed out coincidences, such as Swing only having one police explorer’s phone number in his phone, the victim’s, of him deleting a photo of the victim in a dress and of him looking up two sections of Ohio Revised Code related to the offenses he was accused of two days before Madsen asked him about the incident with no warning.

“The evidence in this case shows consciousness of guilt,” O’Reilly said.

He also argued that the timeline makes sense, and that people have testified that the victim was upset.

“The evidence in this case, ladies and gentlemen, is overwhelming,” O’Reilly said.

He asked the jury to hold Swing accountable.

“He betrayed the badge that he was told, mandated, to uphold,” O’Reilly said.

In Engel’s closing argument, he pointed out that Swing has a file with good performance reviews and commendations.

“This is not about, and what I’m going to tell you about for the next few minutes, is not a vast conspiracy by any stretch. Instead, this is about one person, one person, who set in motion a chain of events that could not be controlled,” Engel said.

Swing, Engel said, was thrown under the bus by his department, who was uninterested in finding the truth.

“[The investigator is] doing a lot of work to find out everything she can about John Swing but she’s not doing any work to actually find out what happened in this case,” Engel said.

He added, “This was a predecided outcome.”

The inconsistencies in the victim’s story are not small items, and the victim changed her story when she was confronted with evidence, Engel said. In addition, the two key ideas on his closing argument is that there is no reason to believe the victim and that the first reason is irrelevant because the victim is not reliable.

“She’s changing her story to fit the evidence in the case,” Engel said.

He pointed to examples of what he found to be inconsistencies in what the victim said, and reminded the jury that the trial is about if Swing can be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Engel also talked about the witnesses that testified that Swing also did inappropriate things with them. While what happened with the corrections officer might constitute sexual harassment, Swing did not commit a crime, Engel said.

In the alleged incident with the police officer, Engel argued that the incident was in no way similar to what happened between Swing and the victim.

“The bottom line on this case is that the state has not proven everything beyond a reasonable doubt,” Engel said.

Prosecutor Vince Faris rebutted the defense’s closing argument, starting out by pointing out to the jury that when Engel played a clip from an interview with the victim, he cut off her statements mid-sentence, taking them out of context.

“You can’t pick and choose what you want the evidence to be,” Faris said.

He also pointed out that some things the defense said do not make sense, such as saying that in footage of the day after the incident the victim should have looked disheveled, but, Faris said, she did not because she had plenty of time to fix her outfit before video footage was taken of her.

“We strongly contend that all of these incidences were committed upon [the victim] by force or by threat of force by the defendant,” Faris said.

Sun reporter Megan Alley contributed to this article.