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Monday, August 4th, 2008

Prosecutor tries to move Schwieterman trial

By Margie Wuebker
The Sept. 22 trial of Nicholas Schwieterman of Chickasaw, who is charged in connection with the deaths of four area men in a March traffic accident, could be moved to another county due to pretrial publicity.
Mercer County Assistant Prosecutor Matt Fox filed a motion Thursday seeking a change of venue due to media coverage and the close-knit nature of the community where Schwieterman resides. Schwieterman and the four victims - Jordan Moeller, Jordan Diller, Brad Roeckner and Jordan Goettemoeller - were all graduates of Marion Local Schools.
In the motion, Fox mentioned that many details of the case already were reported by the press and that a letter to the editor written by Schwieterman's family appeared in the local newspaper.
"Though certainly they would deny any inappropriate motive in the timing of the publishing of the letter, it is easy to interpret the letter as an attempt to garner sympathy for Nicholas Schwieterman," Fox added.
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.
"Though not filed, the issue was reviewed with the court within weeks of Schwieterman's arrest," Fox wrote. "Since their (the Dayton attorneys) initial claims of jury pool prejudice, there have been numerous articles and extensive coverage of this case including the suppression hearing. Their failure to claim otherwise now is only inviting error."
Ross and Calaway had filed a 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.
Mercer County Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffrey Ingraham denied the motion two weeks ago 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, 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 were pronounced dead at the scene.
Schwieterman faces four counts of involuntary manslaughter, eight counts of aggravated vehicular homicide, two counts of operating a vehicle under the influence and one count of possession of drugs.
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