Dog-mauling death trial expected to begin today in Pontotoc

By Patsy R. Brumfield / Daily Journal

UPDATE: 11:02 A.M.
PONTOTOC – James Casey Swanson accepted responsibility today without a pure guilty plea in the January 2011 dog-mauling death of Ronnie Waldo.
About 10:30 a.m., Swanson entered the Pontotoc County courtroom with a prepared statement, standing before Circuit Judge “Jim” Seth Pounds.
In making his no-contest plea, he entered a qualified guilty plea.
Swanson said he was very sorry for what happened. “I didn’t mean for it to happen,” he said turning around toward family members in the courtroom.
“I hope they will forgive me,” he told the court.
Pounds sentenced him to 20 years, with 15 suspended, in custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections with five years probation. He also told him the original charge was reduced to a crime by a non-habitual offender and that he will get credit for time served.
He also fined him $3,000 because a jury was brought in for a trial. Apparently he was in probation for another charge and this new sentence will run at the same time with whatever’s left on a revocation of his parole. He remains in custody awaiting that revocation.
Swanson told Pounds he didn’t know about the probation period. The judge said that could be reduced, if he behaved himself.
Pounds said he doesn’t know why pit bulls are allowed in Mississippi, challenging the Legislature to do something about it. He said it was about the fourth case since he’s been circuit judge that he’s presided over a case related to the dogs.
Prior to his plea, Assistant District Attorney Paul Gault told the court that at trial would have shown that nine witnesses could support evidence that Swanson’s dogs killed Waldo and that Swanson knew they were dangerous.
Witnesses, Gault said, would say they saw Waldo “being eaten” by the dogs and had to be shot by Sheriff’s Department personnel.
The prosecutor also said evidence shows the dogs appeared not to have eaten or been watered for a long time, and that they were vicious. Swanson also was warned by several people about the dogs’ propensity for violence, Gault said.
Swanson entered what’s called an “Alford plea,” which means he believes he should plead because he was likely to be convicted.
Swanson was not at home when the attack occurred.
Gault said he met with Waldo’s family and they said they were “comfortable” with the plea deal.
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PONTOTOC – Jury selection began this morning in the dog-attack death of 51-year-old Ronnie Waldo, mauled on his way to borrow a water-heater part off Randolph Loop 17 months ago.
James Casey Swanson will be tried on his April 2011 indictment accusing him of manslaughter in Waldo’s death.
A Pontotoc grand jury accuses Swanson of knowing his three pit bull dogs were vicious and not confined, and causing Waldo’s death.
District Attorney Trent Kelly’s office is prosecuting Swanson as a two-time convicted felon, with prior sentences on burglary and larceny charges.
Assisting Kelly at this trial are assistants Sadie Gardner, Josh Wise, Paul Gault and John Weddle.
Waldo died Jan. 26, 2011 after the dog attack on Swanson’s property at 879 Topsy Road, off Randolph Loop in Pontotoc County.
News reports then stated that Waldo was renting a trailer home on Swanson’s property just 50 yards from where his mangled body was found by a friend.
Waldo reportedly was going to Swanson’s home to borrow an element for a hot water heater that he and Raymond Blansett were repairing at Waldo’s trailer. When Waldo hadn’t returned after 20 minutes, Blansett went to look for him.
Blansett claims that he saw the dogs attacking Waldo. Waldo was pronounced dead on the scene.
About 10 a.m., Judge Jim Seth Pounds recess the large jury pool while he handled other guilty pleas.
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