Friday, March 21st, 2008
Local man indicted on 10 counts
By Margie Wuebker
Nicholas R. Schwieterman sat head down and shoulders slumped this morning as Mercer County Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffrey Ingraham read a list of charges handed down by the grand jury in the wake of a deadly weekend traffic accident.
The 22-year-old Schwieterman, who resides at 90 S. Maple St., Chickasaw, spoke only two words "Yes, sir" when Ingraham asked whether he understood the contents of the 10-count indictment.
The charges include four counts of aggravated vehicular homicide, second-degree felonies alleging he caused the deaths of Jordan M. Moeller, Jordan M. Diller, Bradley Roeckner and Jordan Goettemoeller by driving under the influence. Results of tests performed at Mercer County Community Hospital in Coldwater following the early Saturday morning accident indicated his blood-alcohol content was 0.134, nearly double the 0.08 legal limit.
He also faces four counts, all third-degree felonies, for allegedly operating his 1996 Pontiac Bonneville in reckless fashion resulting in the deaths of the four teens. He reportedly ran a stop sign at the intersection of County Road 716A and Brockman Road, north of St. Sebastian, at 2:51 a.m.
Additionally, Schwieterman is charged with two counts of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs of abuse, both first-degree misdemeanors.
Each of the more serious aggravated vehicular homicide charges carry the possibility of two to eight years in prison and a $15,000 fine while each of the lesser third-degree felonies carries one to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Each of the misdemeanors could add an additional six months and a $1,000 fine.
If convicted on all charges and given the maximum sentence, Schwieterman would face 53 years in prison and $102,000 in fines. He also faces an operator's license suspension from three years to life.
Marc Ross, part of the Dayton legal team retained by the Schwieterman family, entered not guilty pleas on his client's behalf.
Mercer County Assistant Prosecutor Matt Fox requested continuance of a $1 million bond and, in the event 10 percent or $100,000 is posted, he requested a litany of sanctions - house arrest with electronic monitoring, no personal contact or contact via a third party with families of the victims and maintain his current residence. In the event of his release, Schwieterman must consume no alcohol or drugs of abuse and stay away from establishments where liquor is served.
Fox called the bond "appropriate" given the seriousness of the charges. Schwieterman's attorneys indicated they would discuss the possibility of bond modification when meeting in the judge's chambers during an April 10 pretrial hearing.
More than 30 relatives, friends and former classmates came to court to show their support for Schwieterman. The courtroom was cloaked in silence as they awaited the start of the proceeding that ran nearly 45 minutes behind schedule. That silence was broken only by muffled crying.
Approximately 20 representatives of the victims' families entered the courtroom with heads down. Many of them clutched tissues. They left as quietly as they entered and went to a nearby conference room to meet with representatives of the prosecutor's office and law enforcement officers.
Following the initial appearance, Ross and his partner, attorney Scott Calaway, released the following statement on behalf of Schwieterman, his parents Bob "Buster" and Linda Schwieterman and other family members:
"Our hearts and prayers go out to the family and friends of the four young men who passed away in this tragic accident. This is a difficult time for everyone whose lives have been affected by this incident. However, we would ask everyone to allow the legal process to take its course so that an appropriate resolution can be reached."