Members of the polygamous Singer-Swapp clan rejected plea bargain offers that would have imposed less severe penalties than those they face following their convictions by a federal jury, attorneys say.
Defense attorneys met with prosecutors on the eve of the clan's 13-day trial to discuss plea agreements after U.S. District Judge Bruce Jenkins asked counsel to explore the possibilities of settlements, Utah U.S. Attorney Brent Ward said."Although at first it appeared there was a possibility of reaching agreement with one or more of the defendants, the door quickly closed and it was apparent they didn't want to discuss things any further," he said.
Last week, the jury returned guilty verdicts against Vickie Singer; her son, John Timothy Singer; her son-in-law, Addam Swapp; and Swapp's brother, Jonathan, on 20 of 23 counts stemming from the Jan. 16 bombing of an LDS stake house and the subsequent police standoff at the Singer farm in Marion, Summit County.
The prosecution offers called for "substantial prison terms," Ward said, but the penalties were less severe than for conviction on all counts.
Considerably less severe in the case of Vickie Singer, who turned down an offer that would have resulted in a prison term of less than five years, said her co-counsel, Steve Russell.
Singer, 45, now faces 10-12 years in federal prison after being found guilty of aiding and abetting in the bombing of the Kamas Stake Center, use of a bomb, resisting and assaulting federal agents, use of a deadly weapon and possession of an unregistered bomb.
Under the proposed plea bargain, prosecutors were willing to drop all charges except the resistance count and guarantee the dismissal of any state charges stemming from the bombing and standoff, Russell said.
They also agreed to allow Singer to serve her time in one of the milder "club fed" prisons in California and arrange the sentences so that the wheelchair-bound John Timothy Singer could serve his time at the same facility as his mother, Russell said.
"The aggregate she would've been looking at was less than five years. It was a good offer," he said.
John Timothy Singer's attorney, Fred Metos, declined to discuss the plea bargains, and lawyers for Addam Swapp could not immediately be reached. However, Bruce Savage, representing Jonathan Swapp, said all four defendants received offers, and his client's terms were similar to Vickie Singer's.
Both Savage and Russell indicated the family nixed the offers for religious reasons at the prodding of Addam Swapp.
"We tried numerous times to convince Vickie that it was in her best interests to do it, obviously without success," Russell said. "It was our unrestrained advice to accept the offer for her own good and the good of her family, and she just wouldn't do it. I think at one point she was willing to do it, and Addam talked her out of it."
"I know that the deals were eventually all turned down because they got together and had a prayer meeting or something," Savage said. "You can imagine my incredible frustration."
Sentencing hearings for all four defendants were scheduled for July 1.
Addam Swapp, convicted of the church bombing, use of a bomb, possession of a bomb, second-degree attempted murder, resisting and assaulting agents and two counts of use of a deadly weapon, faces about 15 to 20 years in prison, prosecutors have said.
Jonathan Swapp and John Timothy Singer face 10 to 12 years for their convictions of second-degree attempted murder, assault-resistance and two firearms violations.
The four likely will serve their terms in separate federal prisons, Ward said.
Still ahead for an unspecified number of the defendants are state murder charges stemming from the shooting death of state Corrections Lt. Fred House, who was gunned down Jan. 28 in the shootout that ended the 13-day siege.
The Utah attorney general's office still intends to file homicide charges next week, although Associate Deputy Attorney General Paul Warner said this week that "a couple things developing" could change that.
Warner declined to elaborate on the new developments, except to say they were "purely related to the timing of the filing of the charge."
Metos, whose client is the state's prime suspect in House's death, said the state cannot take the case to court until the defendants have been sentenced in the federal case.
"That's essentially correct, which is part of the consideration in my saying things may change," Warner said.