July 23, 2013

Swan claims she was abused, misguided and misunderstood

Carole Swan tells jurors she led a dual life, beaten and controlled by her husband, disabled and in pain; while painting herself as Chelsea town government's 'superwoman' to contractor Frank Monroe, who allegedly paid kickbacks to her on town contracts

By Betty Adams badams@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

BANGOR — Former Chelsea selectwoman Carole Swan told jurors her story today, saying she was abused, misguided and misunderstood.

Swan testified in her own defense on the 12th day of her trial in federal court, spending more than three hours on the stand and starting by describing domestic violence she said she suffered at the hands of husband, Marshall.

Swan testified that her husband repeatedly pulled her hair, punched her upper arm and kicked her, but she kept it a secret because it was embarrassing.

"He's like two people," she said. "When he's nice, there's not a better person in the world."

Swan, 55, faces multiple fraud charges related to false tax returns and claims for workers' compensation, as well as fraud involving a federal aid program.

She denied committing any crime and exerting any undue influence as town selectman to get road work and contracts for Marshall Swan Construction, the earth-moving company owned by her and her husband.

She also rejected the idea that she was "puppet master" of the town.

She said she suffered for years — beginning when she was in high school — from domestic violence inflicted by her husband, whom she married in 1984, and said she lived in fear of him and for her children. She said she was unable to leave him until July 6, shortly after their younger son graduated high school.

Swan described a Thanksgiving eve in 1994 when Marshall Swan took wooden apples from a bowl on the kitchen table and threw them at her so hard they left holes in the wall of the trailer where they lived. She said that scene followed her confrontation of Marshall at a restaurant, where he was with another woman and a friend.

The Swans argued in the parking lot in front of their son, then about 9 years old.

She said she hosted Thanksgiving dinner for family the next day. "I set things around on counters so people couldn't see the holes in the wall from the apples."

Accusations of affairs

She said Marshall accused her "constantly" of having affairs. She told her attorney, Leonard Sharon, she never had an affair.

Swan said Marshall had one affair for four years, occasionally meeting the woman at a post office in Augusta.

"I found a bra in our car that was not mine," she told jurors.

Sharon asked her when the domestic abuse ended.

"The abuse has never stopped," Swan testified.

She said she called police after one incident in 2006, and deputies removed Marshall Swan from the home. He moved back home after going to court, and he started counseling, she said.

Sharon has said that fraud or falsification of government documents occurred unintentionally either by mistake or because she was in fear of her husband.

"I did whatever I was told by my husband," Swan testified, when Sharon questioned her about bank accounts and tax return preparations.

She said she tried to be accurate. "I thought we were," she said. "We thought we had it right." She said she did put business checks in a nonbusiness account, but did not intend to hide the money.

"We reported it wrong but I didn't know it at the time," Swan said.

This year, rather than keep invoices and receipts in a plastic tote in a kitchen cupboard, she said the family is using filing cabinets for records.

'Superwoman' in control of Chelsea

Swan also testified that she was conducting an investigation of Whitefield contractor Frank Monroe, claiming the town's plow contractor was shorting the town of sand and using town sand for his private plowing business, confiding this only to her husband and a couple of other townspeople.

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