Exceptionally grave charges were tried in the Singer-Swapp trial - so serious, in fact, that the 23 counts carry an aggregate of possible maximum sentences amounting to 220 years in prison
- but the trial had its strange and humorous moments.
- Those jackets: Day after day, Addam Swapp showed up in his buckskin jacket, which reporters, court personnel and some defense lawyers privately called his "convict-me jacket." Fringed, with an unusual standup collar, decorated with religious emblems and feathers, it carries on the back a flag patterned after Old Glory.Called the "Flag of the Kingdom of God," its display on Addam Swapp's back was the third time this flag has flown in a highly charged public confrontation.
It is a small version of the flag that flew twice at the Singer compound in Marion. The first time was nine years ago when John Singer held officers at bay, in the siege that lead to his death. The second time was during the January siege, which ended with the death of Lt. Fred House.
All three times, the flag - said to be a replica of one carried by Mormon pioneers - signaled a defiance of manmade law.
Addam Swapp's jacket was made by his wives, Heidi and Charlotte Singer Swapp. Time and again, it was cited by FBI agents and others who were asked to identify Addam Swapp: Yes, he's the gentleman seated at that table wearing the leather jacket.
Halfway through the trial, Jonathan Swapp, Addam's brother, showed up in a buckskin jacket too. It sagged on him, looking several sizes too large. Heidi Swapp told me her father, John Singer, made the jacket himself and wore it.
Whether it was to show support for Addam or simply an attempt to confuse witnesses, Jonathan Swapp wore it most of the rest of the trial.
- Accommodations. So many people packed the courtroom that U.S. District Judge Bruce S. Jenkins sometimes had to open special areas for them, allowing them to sit behind the defendants, even though for security's sake the U.S. Marshal Service wouldn't let anyone sit in the long bench of the spectators' section that was closest to the four on trial.
During closing arguments, at least a dozen people stood along the walls of the courtroom, which may be the largest court in Utah. For hours, I shared a bench with a dozen other folks, who nearly had to coordinate their breathing, they were packed in so tightly.
This was the day an eighth-grade class from a parochial school chose to visit the court on a field trip. So a group of young girls ended up sitting in a window sill on the courtroom's back wall.
- Art: Skillful artists from newspapers and TV stations sketched every day. Scott Snow, an artist from KSL, would start with an amorphous blob of pastel on his colored paper, then miraculously, a realistic picture would spring to life under his hands as he rapidly blocked in details.
To the amusement of the artists' corps, a reporter from Brigham Young University's TV station, KBYU, tried her hand at art, too. As she sat directly behind Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Lambert, the back of the prosecutor's bald dome filled most of one of her more telling compositions.
- Motherhood: A young woman spectator sometimes nursed a baby in the hallway outside the courtroom, discretely covered with a shawl.
- Spectators: Backers of the defendants eventually gravitated to the left side of the courtroom (as seen while facing the judge), behind the defense tables. Reporters generally found themselves on the right side, with prosecutors in front of them.
Several spectators were fiercely partisan, arguing with reporters whenever the journalists would listen. One woman jabbed her finger at an author who had written a book about John Singer and was contemplating an update. She kept demanding to know whether he was going to tell the truth this time.
- The man in the cowboy hat. Gerry Spence, a famous and flamboyant lawyer from Wyoming, was one of the attorneys for the Singer family years ago when they filed a wrongful-death suit because of the shooting of John Singer. So when Spence swept into this trial, reporters thought he was there to help the defense. He swept out grandly, big cowboy hat planted on his head while he was still in the coutroom.
Asked if he were there to litigate, he said no. The story then circulated that Spence was trying to negotiate movie rights for a production about the standoff, and wanted Bo Derek to star as Vickie Singer.
- Revenge? When Addam Swapp was sworn in as a witness in his defense, he swore he would tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. But then he refused to answer questions about other defendants.
In a display of arrogance rarely equaled in a federal courtroom, he sassed Jenkins from the witness stand, saying he would "stand mute" despite the judge's orders that he must answer the questions of prosecutors. He sarcastically said, in response to a "yes or no" question from U.S. Attorney Brent D. Ward, that he might as well have a yes or a no button to push.
Well, push the button, Jenkins ordered.
"I will answer it the way I answer it," Swapp said. "I will stand mute!" and he slapped the podium.
Each time he refused to obey the judge's order could have resulted in a separate prison sentence. So once, when Swapp refused to answer and Ward asked Jenkins to order him to do so, the judge mildly replied that he would be glad to do it.
- Rodd Wagner's "come to meetin"' suit. Three different days, Salt Lake Tribune reporter Wagner came to court in his best dark blue suit, responding to a subpoena that required him to testify about an interview with Addam Swapp. But each day, he wasn't called. Lawyers said he looked like one of their fraternity.
Finally, when his turn really did come on April 28, Wagner was wearing a sports jacket.
- Caiman, perhaps? Photographer Ogden Kraut, who was one of the real heroes of the siege, said an FBI agent looked like "Alligator Dundee." He meant the fictional Australian adventurer Crocodile Dundee.