Almost 14 months to the day since shooting his best friend Paul Raney to death, Chelan High School graduate Steven Swinford appeared before Chelan Superior Court Lesley Allen Friday afternoon for sentencing following his February conviction on 2nd degree murder charges.
Swinford was escorted to court dressed in a bright orange jailhouse jumpsuit shackled at both his ankles and wrists. Gone was the confident swagger, button down shirt and matching tie we had seen throughout two trials, the first which ended with a hung jury last fall.
The first order of business was a defense motion for a retrial based on alleged prosecutorial misconduct by Chelan County Deputy Prosecutor Doug Shae. As expected, after hearing the evidence Judge Allen quickly denied the request for a mistrial and moved onto the sentencing hearing.
Thirty-five plus spectators listened as Prosecutor Shae laid out his argument for sentencing in the high range allowed under state guidelines followed by Defense Attorney Jeromy Fords plea for leniency in sentencing. Testimony from Paul Raneys mother was especially heart wrenching and there were few dry eyes left in the courtroom as she remembered Paul and shared her grief. Next Swinfords father, Dick, addressed the court and asked Judge Allen to allow Steven a second chance to live his life by sentencing him to the lower end of the sentencing guidelines. Lastly convicted murderer Steven Swinford stood and spoke directly to Judge Allen. He explained that he never felt he was completely innocent but he never murdered anyone and he certainly did not murder Paul Raney. Swinford apologized to the Raney family and acknowledged that being sorry did not fix anything.
Judge Allen took several minutes to share excerpts from several of the 35 letters she had received regarding sentencing and shared her feeling about the events that led to the shooting. The Judge was close to lecturing those in attendance about mixing alcohol and firearms as she delivered a stinging sentence of 264 months in state prison. Judge Allen compared the 264 sentence to the 264 months that Paul Raney had on this earth before Steven Swinford shot him 7 times at close range with a 45 caliber handgun in January of 2011.
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