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Domestic violence charges filed against judge in Tri-Cities

UPDATED: Wed., Jan. 19, 2022

Associated Press

RICHLAND, Wash. — A judge in eastern Washington has been charged with domestic violence assault, according to court documents.

Benton-Franklin Superior Court Judge Sam Swanberg was cited with two counts of fourth-degree assault domestic violence in Franklin County District Court, The Tri-City Herald reported. He’s scheduled to enter a plea to the charges on Feb. 8.

Swanberg’s lawyer Scott Johnson said Swanberg will enter a not guilty plea to the charges.

A temporary protection order for his ex-wife is in place until then. A 1-year no-contact order is also in place in Benton County to prevent him from contacting an ex-girlfriend, who said he harassed her after their breakup. Those allegations have been referred to an outside prosecutor for review.

Swanberg’s attorney said they had not been aware of the Franklin County investigation before the citation was issued on Friday. The sheriff’s department issued the citation without involvement by Franklin County prosecutors.

Sheriff’s investigators said in court documents they tried to contact Swanberg, and identified themselves as detectives investigating the matter, but he did not return their calls.

Swanberg’s attorney Scott Johnson said Swanberg absolutely disputes his ex-wife’s accounts and called the charges questionable.

Swanberg was accused of abuse by his former spouse in a court filing last month. The filing was part of supporting documentation in the civil case requesting a no-contact order brought by an ex-girlfriend.

An investigation was then opened by the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office and the citation was issued. The charges are misdemeanors punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and up to 364 days in jail.

The former spouse told sheriff’s detectives that she had photos of Swanberg dragging her out of a room at their home and that he had shoved her in separate incidents in February 2021.

Swanberg is one of seven Superior Court judges and three court commissioners who handle civil and felony criminal cases, divorces, paternity and custody issues in the two counties. He oversees cases in Benton and Franklin County, including Kennewick, Richland and Pasco. He has been on the bench for about four years.

Swanberg on Tuesday was removed by the other Superior Court judges from presiding over Superior Court administrative issues and will not be assigned to any cases while the case proceeds.

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