SHERIDAN — Robert Clayton Swett was found guilty for one count of aggravated child abuse by the jury at 6:05 p.m. Thursday in 4th Judicial District Court. After four days of trial and just over an hour of deliberation, the jury of 10 men and two women decided beyond a reasonable doubt that Swett did intentionally or recklessly inflict serious bodily injury upon his 5-month-old child.
The defense called Dr. James Richards from St. Vincent Healthcare in Billings, Montana, to the stand before the case was turned over to the jury Thursday. Richards specializes in neurology and reviewed the child’s case in March or April 2017. He said the skull fracture the child obtained in the incident Swett said included the child being dropped could have been from less than 5 feet. During defense attorney Erin Wardell’s questioning of Richards, he said the injuries sustained by the child were certainly consistent with the story Swett provided. He agreed that no additional force was needed for a fall at that height to cause those injuries.
During cross examination, Sheridan County Deputy and Prosecuting Attorney Darci Phillips asked Richards to clarify that he had minimal to no experience in pediatrics throughout his time as a neurologist.
Swett also testified Thursday and retold the events occurred on or around Jan. 12 — the night of the incident.
On the day following the incident, Swett said he went to the child’s grandmother’s home to cool down after becoming frustrated for forgetting keys with the child’s mother. Swett testified the child had been vomiting more than usual the past few days and asked the grandmother if they should make an appointment to see a doctor. The grandmother said yes and they went to the doctor. Swett, during his testimony on the stand, said he saw the injuries to the child’s head when he was instructed to strip the child down at the doctor’s office.
Swett’s testimony about the flight and stay in Colorado revealed he was frustrated with staff at Children’s Hospital Colorado and confused about his child’s condition, saying at points he thought the child was dying. He remained concerned about the child being fed, as he said the child had not kept food down for several days. He testified that he deferred consent for an MRI to the child’s mother, who had stayed in Wyoming.
In cross examination, Phillips pointed out inconsistencies in Swett’s story and counteracted them with audio and video clips from the first two interviews with Sheridan Police Department Sgt. Dan Keller. The inconsistencies included how Swett, the child and the grandmother arrived at the hospital, who suggested going to the hospital, how many times the child was dropped during the incident on Jan. 12 and when the injuries to the child’s head were discovered.
In closing statements, Phillips acknowledged that accidents happen, but said this was no accident. She took the jury through the last four days of testimony, noting Swett’s demeanor and actions throughout the incident and follow-up care in Sheridan and Colorado.
Wardell addressed the jury, saying the facts presented do not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the incident was intentional, pointing out that much of the testimony from the doctors included terms like “likely,” “usually” and similar words.
Phillips’ final reply said the medical field deals with uncertainties because it cannot be 100 percent certain, 100 percent of the time across the board. She defended medical staff, saying they look at science objectively.
The court will schedule Swett’s sentencing hearing in the coming weeks. Judge John Fenn also requested Swett complete a presentence investigation immediately following trial. Swett’s bond was revoked and he was taken into the custody of the Sheridan County Detention Center.