Swaim sentencing delayed, defense attorney seeking mistrial

Swaim sentencing delayed, defense attorney seeking mistrial


EL CENTRO, CA - Sentencing for convicted child molester Johnnie Swaim has been delayed for at least another month.

Swaim's attorney asked for the delay because he plans to file for a mistrial.

Last month, an Imperial County jury found the former California Highway Patrol lieutenant guilty on four counts for molesting his two daughters.

Swaim's defense attorney, Robert Espinoza, did not give his reasoning in court this morning.

Instead, he simply asked the judge for copies of all transcripts from Swaim's trial.

Today, Aarika Sanchez, who says she too is a victim even though a jury previously acquitted her stepdad of molesting her, says seeking a mistrial is disappointing.

"I think he is scared of how much time he'll be getting," she said.

Aarika Sanchez says she's waited 18-years for her stepfather Johnnie Swaim to be convicted of molestation.  

She says she's not fazed by having to wait another month for Swaim's sentencing, while a judge determines if his conviction for molesting Sanchez's two younger half-sisters should be declared a mistrial.   

"At least he's already in jail so it's different that if it was one month from today and he was out free and he can get away," said Sanchez.

During what was supposed to be his sentencing, a somber-looking Swaim, wearing a red jumpsuit and shackles, stood next to his attorney and stared straight ahead.

His defense attorney then surprised victims in the courtroom, including Sanchez, when he asked the judge to delay sentencing to April 9 to give him time to build a case for a mistrial.

District Attorney Heather Trapnell didn't object to Espinoza's request.

"Your honor while I'd like to more forward today, it is my understanding under the law, the defense does have the right to the transcripts to do the motion for a new trial," said Trapnell.

The judge then agreed and rescheduled Swaim's sentencing for next month.

Still, it appeared Espinoza, Swaim's attorney, was not too happy with our camera capturing today's court hearing. As he left he put his notepad in front of our camera lens to keep us from recording video of his client, a former California Highway Patrol lieutenant.

As for Sanchez, she says if push comes to shove she is ready for round two. "We just have to do it all over again, I can't testify but hopefully the victims would want to come forward again."

The court will turn over all court records to Swaim's attorney by next week.

If the judge denies the mistrial, during sentencing Swaim could face up to 24 years in prison.     

KSWT-TV Affiliates