Tuesday, August 12th, 2008
Schwieterman's trial to remain in Mercer County
By Margie Wuebker
Mercer County Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffrey Ingraham has denied a prosecution motion to move the scheduled trial of Nicholas Schwieterman to another jurisdiction in a tersely worded decision filed Monday afternoon.
The 22-year-old Chickasaw man faces 16 counts stemming from a March 15 traffic accident that claimed the lives of four area men. He allegedly was under the influence of alcohol, cocaine and marijuana at the time.
On July 31, prosecutors filed a motion to move the trial. Then on Friday, defense attorneys filed a motion seeking to strike the state's request for a change of venue, which is what Ingraham granted Monday.
Paperwork filed by Schwieterman's attorneys indicated their client does not want a trial, currently scheduled for Sept. 22, and is prepared to plead guilty to the most serious charges - four first-degree felony counts of involuntary manslaughter - if the prosecution drops the other 12 counts, ranging from second-degree felonies to a first-degree misdemeanor.
Plea negotiations apparently remain ongoing with no change of plea hearing scheduled at this point. A final pretrial hearing is set for Sept. 4.
Each of the involuntary manslaughter charges carries up to 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine, meaning Schwieterman could face 40 years in prison and $80,000 in fines.
Mercer County Assistant Prosecutor Matt Fox moved for a change of venue citing various factors including pretrial publicity, the closely knit Maria Stein community and a potential witness list containing nearly 50 people. Additionally, Schwieterman's father and uncle own and operate the Korner Kafe, one of only two bar/restaurant establishments in the area, and his grandfather, the late Roger Schwieterman, served 16 years as Mercer County auditor and two terms as president of the Mercer County Development Organization. Fox indicated the publicity and other factors could make it difficult to seat a jury and ensure a fair trial for Schwieterman.
That action came less than a week after Ingraham denied a defense motion to suppress or throw out information regarding the results of blood and urine tests administered to Schwieterman in the hours following the crash as well as statements made to authorities and the "unwarranted seizure" of his operator's license. The laboratory tests showed the presence of alcohol and drugs in his system, according to testimony given by an expert witness at the suppression hearing.
In addition to four counts of involuntary manslaughter, Schwieterman faces eight counts of aggravated vehicular homicide, two counts of operating a vehicle under the influence and one count each of trafficking in and possession of drugs (cocaine) in connection with the deaths of teenagers Jordan Moeller, Jordan Diller, Brad Roeckner and Jordan Goettemoeller.
Schwieterman allegedly failed to stop at a stop sign at the intersection of Brockman Road and County Road 716A, near St. Sebastian, and his 1996 Pontiac Bonneville struck the 1995 Pontiac Grand Prix carrying the four men. They were pronounced dead at the scene.