Crime

Tri-City judge calls sex offender's smile 'downright creepy'

Thomas A. Swarers, 70, was convicted by a Benton County jury on April 6 of trying to have sex with two girls last summer. The Kennewick man was one of 26 arrested in a five-day “Net Nanny Operation.”
Thomas A. Swarers, 70, was convicted by a Benton County jury on April 6 of trying to have sex with two girls last summer. The Kennewick man was one of 26 arrested in a five-day “Net Nanny Operation.” Tri-City Herald

A Tri-City judge did not mince words while sentencing a Kennewick man caught in a sex sting last summer.

"When you walked into that apartment with that smile on your face, it was downright creepy," Superior Court Judge Bruce Spanner told the now 70-year-old convicted of planning to have sex with two young girls.

A jury agreed with Spanner last month when it convicted Thomas A. Swarers of two counts of attempted first-degree child rape. Spanner ordered him to prison for at least nine years.

Swarers faced a mandatory minimum of 7 1/2 to 10 years in prison. When he finishes the term a state review board will determine if he can be released.

Benton County Deputy Prosecutor Diane Ruff asked for the maximum sentence for the man who showed up with a bag of sex toys to meet what he believed would be two girls, ages 6 and 11.

"He is a predator in a Mr. Rogers sweater," Ruff said. "His actions were despicable and deplorable."

Swarers is one of 26 Mid-Columbia men caught in the five-day "Net Nanny Operation" and the first to face a jury.

He responded to a Craigslist personals ad and arranged to meet the girls, and even expressed interest in the watching their mother with her 13-year-old son. He arrived with sex toys, condoms and Viagra and a couple of Slurpees.

Swarers continued to proclaim his innocence and told Spanner that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

"I've never done anything wrong in my life," he said. "I got caught up in this thing, and I've paid for it dearly."

His defense attorney, Karla Kane Hudson, asked for a five-year minimum term, noting there were no actual victims. She also noted the state would need to pay for his care as he ages.

"No child was hurt. Not child was going to be hurt," she said. "There may have been an argument that there could have been, there may have been, but, unfortunately, I think our laws (should) punish ... what actually happened."

Spanner rejected the defense attorney's argument, saying neither age nor the nature of how he was caught should result in a lighter sentence.

The judge said there were plenty of reasons to sentence him to the high end of the range, including the age of his potential victims and the damage sex crimes cause in a community and to victims.

He gave Swarers less than the maximum because he didn't have any previous convictions.. Spanner said he did not believe Swarers wasn't intending to meet children.

"You can tell me all day long that you had no intention of doing anything with those kids, but the stuff you brought in there and that smile on your face," he said.

Cameron Probert: 509-582-1402; Twitter: @cameroncprobert
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