2011-02-17 / Local & State

Waterfall Man Guilty Of Threats With Gun

Jury trial held for Bradley Sweger
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz STAFF WRITER

A Waterfall area man accused of pointing a handgun at his neighbor’s brother and threatening to shoot him in the stomach in the midst of a multi-year civil action over property was convicted of terroristic threats and simple assault by physical menace last week.

A jury of seven men and five women found sufficient evidence against Bradley James Sweger of 3401 Wells Valley Road on Wednesday, February 9, to render a guilty verdict to both misdemeanor counts. A third count involving reckless endangerment was dismissed by the court.

Testimony was given during the one-day jury trial on behalf of both the commonwealth and the defense, which was led by attorney Erin Zimmerer.

Victim Robert Baughman of Three Springs told the court that Cold Water Road in Wells Township, the scene of the incident, serves as a right- of-way from Wells Valley Road to the home of his sister, Edena Defibaugh. A portion of the road travels through the Swegers’ property.

Baughman, 65, said on June 11, 2010, he was taking photographs of debris lining the side of Cold Water Road for an upcoming court hearing between his sister and Bradley Sweger’s parents, Brian and Wanda. The photos were requested by his sister’s attorney, Jeff Evans of Waynesboro.

Baughman went on to say that while taking photos he saw Bradley Sweger coming from across the yard toward his truck parked on Cold Water Road. The victim further stated that Sweger shakily pointed a gun at him and said if he didn’t “get back into his truck he would shoot him in the fat belly.” A threat was also made toward Defibaugh’s dogs that had followed the truck down the lane.

Baughman estimated Sweger was approximately 25 feet from him when the threats were made. He described the gun used as a black semiautomatic pistol six to eight inches in length.

Baughman said he continued to take photos of the road but didn’t take any of Sweger with the gun as he didn’t want to antagonize him. He also assumed you needed permission to photograph another individual.

Baughman testified he warned Sweger he would be back later in the day to fill potholes and clear brush.

Baughman’s 73-year-old sister stated she has been at her 492 Cold Water Road residence since 1958 and has hired two lawyers in more than three years to help settle the land dispute with the Sweger family. Recently, different items ranging from telephone poles with rebar to axles and cinder blocks were placed along the road, she said.

Defibaugh was sitting inside the truck when the incident with Bradley Sweger occurred. She said she called out to her brother when she saw Sweger approaching with the gun in his hand.

“Bobby said he wasn’t leaving until he was finished with the photos,” stated Defibaugh. In court and in her statements to Pennsylvania State Police investigators she would describe the gun as being similar to a .40 caliber Glock.

Sitting on the tailgate of the truck at the time was Samuel Bradley Jr., who told the court he visited Defibaugh’s home a lot with Baughman and did various chores. The 44-year- old man said as a result he recognized the Sweger family from seeing them outside their home.

Bradley testified he first saw Bradley Sweger that morning when the young man stuck his head outside a window of his home. Sweger then came out with a gun, according to Bradley, and said he would shoot Baughman and the dogs. The gun was said to have looked like a black. 45 caliber handgun.

Trooper Joseph Horton, of the McConnellsburg barracks, reported even though he didn’t unholster his service Glock, he did use the weapon as a means for size comparison when speaking to the trio following the incident. Meanwhile, Trooper Paul Anderson of Harrisburg provided expert testimony regarding the records maintained by the state police on the sale or transfer of firearms. It was determined in court that Sweger had previously owned a .40 caliber Glock, which was sold to McConnellsburg resident Stephen Waite in 2006. In March of 2010, Sweger was also recorded as having purchased a black .380 caliber Taurus.

Sweger’s mother, Wanda Sweger, who also resides at 3401 Wells Valley Road, took the stand and said she was awakened that morning by the sound of Baughman’s revving truck engine and dogs in their backyard. By the time she was able to get some clothes on and get to her back deck, she said her son Bradley was already outside speaking with Baughman.

The mother said Bradley Sweger did not have a gun, and she did not hear him making any threats. She did say she was afraid for her son and considered it to be a dangerous situation but not dangerous enough to warrant him to take a gun outside. In fact, she was initially unsure in testimony if her son owned a handgun, but later noted he may have possessed one around 2005.

“It (the land dispute) had been going on for so long ... You just don’t know what people are capable of,” said Wanda Sweger. “ ... I was scared for him (Bradley).”

In reviewing photographs admitted into evidence during the trial, Wanda Sweger testified she didn’t recall any obstructions being placed along Cold Water Road. Eventually, she noted she may have recalled seeing the telephone poles with rebar, and her husband may have been responsible for placement of the cinder blocks that were protecting their family’s property.

Taking the stand in his own defense, Bradley Sweger admitted to the confrontation with Baughman. He said he shouted a variety of things at Baughman, including his lack of a job, calling him a loser and that they needed to leave the property. The defendant added he wasn’t carrying a gun, and he never made any threats aside from shooting the dogs that were in his yard.

Sweger concluded he didn’t consider the group on Cold Water Road to be dangerous.

Defense attorney Zimmerer pointed out in closing statements that the exact wording of the threats allegedly made by Sweger all differed slightly in testimony given by Baughman, Defibaugh and Bradley. The puzzle pieces therefore did not fit together to make one picture, she said.

Meanwhile, Fulton County District Attorney Travis Kendall countered that Samuel Bradley Jr. had nothing to gain by lying during court proceedings. “Who has a reason to sit up here and say there was no gun,” concluded Kendall. “How believable is his mother? A mother will say anything to keep her son out of trouble.”

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