Nearly all had left the courtroom for the noon break when it was announced Criminal Court Judge Gary McKenzie would take one more guilty plea. Even the inmates who had cases still pending were removed to have lunch.
At the podium stood a defendant, flanked by his attorney. He was silent. Even though the victim was not present in the courtroom, she had plenty to say via a letter of which portions were read into the record by a state prosecutor.
Jonathan Claude Swallows, 41, a man with no prior record, pleaded guilty to rape involving a 14-year-old victim who was impregnated and later gave birth to a child as a result. When confronted by investigators, Swallows said there was a 99 percent chance the child was not his.
DNA tests, after the birth, revealed that there is a 99.999 percent chance the defendant is the father of the child.
The story will be vague concerning the victim, who was a young teen at the time, to protect her identity. It is the policy of the Chronicle to not identify victims of sex offenses unless they wish to be identified.
Swallows accepted a ten-year sentence to be served at 100 percent. State law sets the range of sentencing at eight to 12 years in prison.
He is to have no contact with the victim, which Assistant Public Defender Janis Mize said had not been an issue since Swallows’ arrest.
He will also be required to register on the state sex offender registry once the sentence is served.
Assistant District Attorney Caroline Knight told McKenzie that the victim agreed to the sentencing agreement because she just wants her nightmare to be over. The victim was not present and, according to Knight, did not want to be present.
The victim opted to send her letter. In the note to the court, the victim wrote that emotional wounds will also be coming, as well as her fear of the defendant. She struggles daily with what happened to her.
“I have been to hell and back” because of the rape. Despite being made to feel that the attacks were her fault, she knows better now. “I hope you never get out of prison,” the victim wrote.
McKenzie reviewed the charge against Swallows, his rights, and whether he was forced or had been promised anything to plead guilty. Swallows said he knows he cannot vote, cannot possess a firearm, and because of the sex offender registry and lifetime community supervision, will have limited options of where he can live or work once released.
Swallows had little else to say, other than one-word answers to the judge’s questions. Once satisfied that Swallows was aware of what he was about to do and was qualified to enter his plea, Swallows pleaded guilty to the rape occurring in October 2017 and was led out of court to begin serving his sentence.