Former Crisfield chief goes from jail to Guard duty, with Middle East call-up

November 17, 1990|By James Bock

Talk about career changes: Norman C. Swift III has gone from police chief to prisoner to active-duty National Guardsman, all in nine months.

Swift, the former Crisfield police chief, pleaded guilty to nonfeasance in office this month and was sentenced to one year in a work-release program at the Somerset County Detention Center, with an additional four years suspended.

But starting next week, Swift apparently won't be spending his

nights behind bars, but with an M-16 automatic rifle by his side as a member of the Crisfield-based 1229th Transportation Company of the Maryland National Guard.

The 1229th, which hauls supplies on flatbed trucks, is to leave Monday for Fort Eustis, Va., for training as part of the call-up of reserve units in the Persian Gulf crisis.

Swift is a sergeant with the Guard and a 17-year veteran of the 1229th.

"He's authorized to go, and he will deploy," said Capt. Michael O. Milord, a National Guard spokesman. "We don't know how long they will be there or where they are bound."

Swift resigned as Crisfield police chief in February and was later charged with arson in connection with a raging 1987 fire that destroyed part of the city's business district and caused $5 million damage. He was also charged with bribery, theft and malfeasance in office.

He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of nonfeasance in office this month, as part of a plea agreement with the prosecution that provided for his work-release sentence.

Swift had been working six days a week in his uncle's construction business, according to his mother, Edna, until he began reporting to the Crisfield armory this week. He returns to the Detention Center every evening at 7 o'clock, she said.

Swift's plea agreement specifically allows him to go on National Guard training missions, but does not spell out whether he may join the company on full-time active duty, said Barbara Little, criminal clerk at Caroline County Circuit Court, where Swift was sentenced.

Judge J. Owen Wise, who sentenced Swift, could not be reached yesterday.

"The Detention Center wants something more specific from Judge Wise before they release him," Mrs. Little said. "I think it's the judge's feeling that he should be allowed to go."

Tony Bruce, Crisfield's attorney, said city officials were disappointed that Swift's plea did not establish who set the 1987 Crisfield blaze.

But Mr. Bruce said there was no objection to Swift's being allowed to go on active duty with the Guard. "Anybody doing their duty in service for the country I admire, and I think the city does," he said.

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