Regardless of the outcome of the Singer-Swapp trial, which goes to the jury Tuesday, Addam Swapp may face a sentence for criminal contempt of court.
Swapp put on an astonishing performance when he took the witness stand Thursday. Repeatedly, he refused to answer questions that involved the actions of defendants other than himself.Probably 10 or 15 times he said such things as, "I stand mute," or "You want to know, ask him (Jonathan Swapp, his brother.)"
As the other defendants did not take the witness stand, the prosecutors couldn't ask them.
These refusals came even as U.S. District Judge Bruce S. Jenkins asked Swapp to answer.
And it happened after he stood in his homemade buckskin jacket fringes hanging from his upraised arm, religious flag on the back and swore an oath to God to "tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth."
The fact that a prison sentence is possible for each refusal to answer was made clear to Swapp by both Jenkins and Swapp's lawyer, John Bucher. At one point when Bucher asked Swapp if he understood the consequences of testifying as a witness, Swapp replied, "I understand more than you give me credit for."
During a break in the session, when the jury was out of the packed courtroom, Jenkins reminded Swapp about the oath's requirements.
A witness has a duty to testify about what he knows, Jenkins said. "When the court orders him to testify . . . the court means exactly what he says." He warned that a witness not answering could be sentenced to prison for contempt. He wanted Swapp to know that he has to expect consequences if he doesn't answer.
"Exactly," Swapp said.
Once when Jenkins told him to respond to a yes-or-no question, Swapp replied, "I could sit down there with a yes or no button and just push the button."
Jenkins told him to push the button.
"I will answer it the way I answer it," Swapp said. "I will stand mute!" and he slapped the podium.
"God will come forth and cleanse this nation," he said later.
His attitude seemed to be that he could decide himself what to answer and what not to answer. That he considered himself above earthly laws seemed evident when Ward asked Swapp why he had referred to the Singer compound as the last stronghold.
"It is the last place where God has established the stronghold," Swapp said. "It is where Zion will be brought together a second time."
Swapp said the family has been victorious because they followed the Lord's revealed dictates without compromise.
"One cannot compromise with wickedness," he said.
In an interview Friday afternoon, prosecutors said that if Swapp must answer with prison time for his refusal to cooperate, it would be under the criminal contempt of court statute.
Federal law is surprisingly vague about criminal contempt of court. It says a court has the right to punish contempt such as refusal to obey the judge's order "at its discretion." No statute came readily to hand saying how long a term or how big a fine could be imposed.