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Monday, August 11th, 2008

Attorneys: Schwieterman willing to plead guilty in fatalities case

By Margie Wuebker
A Chickasaw man apparently is willing to plead guilty to the most serious charges stemming from a March 15 traffic accident that claimed the lives of four area men.
Attorneys for 22-year-old Nicholas Schwieterman indicated in a motion filed Friday that Schwieterman does not want a trial in the local court or any other. Consequently, he has offered to accept responsibility and to plead to four counts of involuntary manslaughter, all first-degree felonies with no agreement as to sentencing or even sentencing range. The charges carry a maximum of 40 years in prison.
Five days have been set aside on the court docket for a jury trial commencing Sept. 22 with the final pretrial hearing slated Sept. 4.
The motion filed Friday afternoon in Mercer County Common Pleas Court is asking Judge Jeffrey Ingraham not to approve the prosecution's recent request for a change of venue.
Mercer County Assistant Prosecutor Matt Fox filed a change of venue motion July 31 citing media coverage and the close-knit nature of the Marion community where Schwieterman resides. The four victims - Jordan Moeller, Jordan Diller, Brad Roeckner and Jordan Goettemoeller - also resided in the Marion Local school district.
The matter of pretrial publicity initially was broached by Schwieterman's attorneys Marc Ross and Scott Calaway of Dayton. They sent a motion seeking a gag order to the prosecutor's office in March. However, the motion was never filed and they never filed any document related to moving the trial elsewhere.
Ross and Calaway filed an earlier motion seeking to have evidence regarding blood and urine tests administered to Schwieterman in the hours following the crash tossed out citing improper testing and handling methods. They also sought dismissal of statements he made to authorities at Mercer County Community Hospital and en route to the Mercer County Jail.
Judge Jeffrey Ingraham denied those requests on July 13 after taking it under consideration since May.
A prosecution expert - Dr. Michael Bissell, director of the Ohio State Medical Center toxicology lab in Columbus - testified at the suppression hearing that Schwieterman was under the influence of alcohol, cocaine and marijuana at the time of the March 15 accident at the intersection of Brockman Road and County Road 716A, near St. Sebastian. Testimony indicated Schwieterman had a blood-alcohol content reading of 0.134, considerably higher than the 0.08 legal limit in Ohio, and a cocaine level of 7,990 nanograms. Under state law, someone with a reading of 150 nanograms is considered under the influence.
Schwieterman was driving a 1996 Pontiac Bonneville westbound on Brockman Road when he failed to stop for a stop sign, according to Mercer County Sheriff's Office reports. His vehicle struck a northbound 1995 Pontiac Grand Prix driven by Moeller.
Moeller and his three passengers, all members of the Marion Local High School Class of 2007, were pronounced dead at the scene.
In addition to four counts of involuntary manslaughter, Schwieterman also faces eight counts of aggravated vehicular homicide, two counts of operating a vehicle under the influence and one count of possession of drugs.
Ingraham has yet to rule on motions related to bond reduction and modification of house arrest to allow Schwieterman to attend church services with his family.
Bond in the case is set at $2 million. Schwieterman's father, Bob, secured his son's release on electronic house monitoring with a $200,000 check representing 10 percent of the total amount. If the bond is reduced, that amount would be returned to his father.
The judge has denied another bond modification motion filed July 21 seeking to allow Schwieterman to attend his sister Kara's Aug. 1 wedding ceremony at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Maria Stein. The request did not include his attendance at a subsequent reception.
Additional online story on this date
FORT RECOVERY - After suffering an undermanned 42-0 loss in the season debut last week, Mercer County looked to vent some frustrations in the home opener on Saturday at Barrenbrugge Park. [More]
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