Both tell their side: Details emerge in Sebeka police chief domestic assault case
FERGUS FALLS — Details have emerged in the criminal case against Sebeka Police Chief Eric Swenson, who is accused of assaulting his girlfriend this summer.
In a formal complaint submitted Aug. 15 to the Seventh District Court by the Otter Tail County Sheriff’s Office, Swenson and the girlfriend, identified only as M.H., relate their versions of the incident to police.
Swenson is charged with two counts of misdemeanor domestic assault: one for commits act with intent to cause fear of immediate bodily harm or death, which carries a maximum sentence of 90 days in jail, a $1,000 fine or both; and one for intentionally inflicts/attempts to inflict bodily harm, which carries a maximum sentence of 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.
According to the complaint, Swenson told authorities he had been dating M.H. for nine months and on the night of June 27 was supposed to help move her things to a new residence. When he met up with her, he said, she was drunk and concerned he had been cheating on her.
“The defendant (Swenson) stated that M.H. was ‘ragging on him,’” the complaint said.
Swenson said that after the couple had arrived at his house, M.H. shoved him while he was taking a shower, after which he told her that she needed to get out and that he would take her home. Swenson said he went into the kitchen, where M.H. shoved him again into a kitchen island. He said he physically moved her outside of the house.
The Otter Tail County sheriff’s deputy interviewing Swenson brought up the “numerous bruises and marks” found on M.H.’s body after the incident, “and that it seemed unlikely that if all he did was grab her and remove her from his residence that there would be so many marks and injuries on M.H.,” the complaint said. The deputy told Swenson that M.H. had recalled him “stomping” on her ribs to authorities. Swenson denied this and said he lost his balance while trying to carry her out.
M.H. said Swenson was drunk that night. She admitted to police that she shoved Swenson in the shower and kitchen, but said that after she shoved him the second time, he pushed her down near the living/dining room area and stepped on her ribs. She tried to get up, and Swenson pushed her again, she said. He then picked her up, carried her outside, and threw her from the front door steps, where she landed on the ground nearby, she said.
M.H. said Swenson then dragged her by the hair to his SUV and drove her back to the Wolf Lake boat landing, where they had met up earlier. When they arrived, M.H. left the car and contacted authorities, the complaint said. M.H. also said Swenson slapped her in the face.
M.H.’s pants had grass stains and there was a rip on one pant leg, the complaint said.
Becker County deputies initially responded to the call, but most of the information in the complaint came from interviews conducted by the Otter Tail County Sheriff’s Office. The Otter Tail deputy said M.H. became emotional when she was interviewed.
“This was obviously difficult for M.H.,” the complaint said.
Assistant Otter Tail County Attorney Heather Brandborg said this week that a domestic abuse no-contact order was not issued due to an agreement with Swenson’s defense. The defense had challenged the prosecution’s request for the order, which legally blocks a defendant accused of domestic violence from contact with the alleged victim, Brandborg said.
Instead of the order, Brandborg said, Swenson made a verbal promise to the court not to have contact with M.H. If Swenson were to violate the promise, a no-contact order would subsequently take effect and he could be arrested, Brandborg said.
Swenson’s defense attorney, Frederick Bruno, said the no-contact order was challenged because it may have prevented Swenson from carrying a firearm in his role as police chief.
The next phase in the case will be a pretrial hearing Oct. 21. Bruno said the defense would likely try to get the charges dismissed during the pretrial phase.