Danny Joe Swindle, 53, was being tried in Walker County Circuit Court on charges of raping an 11-year-old girl when he abruptly changed his plea to guilty. He was also facing two counts of sexual abuse of a child.
Walker County District Attorney Bill Adair said Wednesday afternoon that three witnesses had already testified Tuesday against Swindle when the decision was made to change his plea.
Swindle was sentenced by Circuit Judge Doug Farris Wednesday morning to 20 years for the rape, with five years to be served in prison. He was also sentenced to 10 years on each of the counts of sexual abuse, with one year on each count to be served in prison. The seven years will be served consecutively, Adair said.
“After the jury had been selected and was in the jury box, testimony had started and we were three witnesses in when he decided he wanted to plead guilty,” Walker County District Attorney Bill Adair said Wednesday afternoon.
Officials at the Walker County District Attorney’s Office first learned of the rape allegations in Nov. 2010 when Swindle was being investigated for allegedly threatening the life of President Barack Obama. As part of a Secret Service investigation into the threat, officials learned that Swindle had been accused of raping and sexually abusing an 11-year-old girl more than 20 years ago.
Adair said circumstances surrounding the case were not ordinary. The victim had told someone of the rape but was not believed at the time.
“This was an unusual case in how it originated. This was a secret in this family that probably would have been kept forever if it hadn’t been for the defendant doing something crazy to get this case looked at,” Adair said. “This was a case of a child ‘who fell.’ But in reality, this was a child who was being abused. In so many cases, the perpertrator or the family said the child fell and injured themselves. But in reality, these injuries were caused by rape.”
That, Adair said, further proves the importance of the Walker County Child Advocacy Center. “I would urge all people — teachers, medical professionals, church leaders — when children make these kind of allegations, call the district attorney’s office, call the children’s advocacy center or police. A lot of times when there’s things going on and allegations being made, things need to be looked at,” Adair said. “This is a good example of that.”
Adair said despite the amount of time it took for Swindle to be tried for his crimes, he’s pleased with the outcome. “We’re very pleased with the outcome of this case,” he said. “Obviously, this is a case that’s 20 years old, and we’re trying to get a lot of the older cases brought to trial in order to get justice for these victims. We’re very pleased for the victim to finally get justice.”