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Saltsburg man acquitted of rape charges

| Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

A Saltsburg man was acquitted Friday of felony rape charges, and jurors failed to reach a verdict on lesser sex offenses.

After more than eight hours of deliberations, a Westmoreland County jury found Donald A. Swartz, 32, not guilty of rape and aggravated assault charges in connection with allegations raised by a 34-year-old Oklahoma Borough woman last year.

The jury convicted Swartz of lesser charges of burglary, terroristic threats and loitering.

Jurors deadlocked on two counts of sexual assault and a charge of aggravated indecent assault.

Assistant District Attorney Jim Lazar said no decision has been made as to whether the prosecution will seek to retry Swartz on those three charges.

“I will confer with the victim and will make a decision without delay,” Lazar said in court.

Westmoreland County Judge Al Bell delayed sentencing on the charges Swartz was convicted of until the remaining outstanding counts are addressed.

Bell allowed Swartz to remain free on $40,000 bail.

During two days of testimony, jurors heard Swartz's accuser contend that she was attacked in her home on Aug. 14, 2011.

Lazar told jurors in his closing argument that Swartz was angry with the woman, and through a series of text messages hours before the alleged rape he made threats against her with escalating severity.

Swartz then drove out to her home, broke in through a window, then later confronted the woman on her back porch. Lazar claimed Swartz went inside and raped her.

“Anger and jealousy were his motives, and fear and sexual violence were his tools,” Lazar told jurors.

Defense attorney William Wiker told jurors they should convict his client of making terroristic threats but said there was not enough evidence to convict him of the more serious rape and assault charges.

Wiker said evidence showed that Swartz had consensual sexual relations with his accuser and that she concocted the rape allegation after he was caught lying to her. Wiker said the woman believed she was to receive a cut of $1,000 in gambling winnings Swartz claimed to have. Instead, Swartz had just $5 in his pocket, cash his mother gave him for gas money, according to Wiker.

“Maybe that's the way it happened, maybe it's not, but it's possible and that's reasonable doubt,” Wiker said.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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