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Torture case defendant loses 1st legal fight

A judge rejects Scott Schweickert 's request to throw out statements he made about h elp ing to d rug two men who were then r aped and killed.

By CARRIE WEIMAR
Published January 5, 2007


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TAMPA - Testifying for the first time since his arrest in a case involving allegations of torture, rape and murder, Scott Schweickert accused authorities Thursday of violating his rights by denying him a lawyer when he was first questioned.

But a federal prosecutor said Schweickert's story was false, and he had documents and tapes to prove it.

Schweickert, 41, is accused of helping Steven Lorenzo drug two Tampa men who were later raped and killed. His federal trial is scheduled to begin Monday.

U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday conducted a hearing Thursday on whether statements Schweickert made to law enforcement should be thrown out because his constitutional rights were denied.

Schweickert is charged with conspiracy and assisting in a drug-facilitated crime of violence against Michael Wachholtz and Jason Galehouse, both 26. The two men disappeared the same weekend in December 2003.

Wachholtz's decomposed body was found two weeks later. Galehouse has never been found, but blood identified as his was found on Lorenzo's garage floor.

Schweickert said he requested a lawyer after he was served with a subpoena on May 3, 2005, to testify before a grand jury in the Lorenzo case.

But when he arrived in Tampa from his home in Peru, Ill., he said he was informed he wasn't entitled to legal representation.

"They told me I was ineligible for an attorney," said Schweickert, who was dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit. "There's no sense in asking for something you can't have."

Schweickert was questioned for nearly seven hours that day by Tampa police and a Drug Enforcement Administration agent.

Schweickert's lawyer, Pedro Amador, said those statements should be thrown out because they were illegally obtained.

"It all should have stopped after he requested a lawyer," Amador said.

Schweickert also said he was falsely led to believe he would be granted immunity when authorities told him they would try to assist him if he was truthful.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Porcelli said Schweickert was never given any promises. He also noted Schweickert lied to the grand jury, which would be unnecessary if he felt he had immunity.

Porcelli called DEA agent Scott Albrecht, who testified that Schweickert had been informed of his right to an attorney several times but never requested one. In fact, Schweickert refused an offer to go before a judge to determine whether he qualified for a court-appointed attorney, he said.

Schweickert seemed eager to cooperate, and offered to drive officers around Tampa to show them where Lorenzo had stashed Galehouse's dismembered body. Schweickert also volunteered to draw a crude schematic showing where in Lorenzo's garage Galehouse had been killed, Albrecht said.

After listening to nearly five hours of testimony, Merryday rejected Schweickert's request to throw out the statements.

"The evidence shows that at no time did the defendant request a lawyer," Merryday said.

The hearing continues today with Merryday scheduled to decide whether to allow the prosecution to show pictures and videos found in Lorenzo's house during Schweickert's trial.

Carrie Weimar can be reached at 813 226-3416 or cweimar@sptimes.com.

[Last modified January 5, 2007, 01:21:29]


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