MOUNT VERNON – Paul Swanson, the longtime Mount Vernon Nazarene University volleyball coach accused of sexually victimizing an 88-year-old nursing home resident, pleaded not guilty to gross sexual imposition – a fourth-degree felony charge – in Mount Vernon Municipal Court on Friday.
Swanson was present for his bond hearing via livestream video, although he was still in jail at the time. His attorney Jonathon W. Spaulding, of the Mount Vernon-based law firm Spaulding & Kitzler, entered Swanson’s plea for him before a visiting judge.
Judge James Kimbler, a recent retiree from the Medina County Common Pleas Court who oversaw Friday’s bond hearing, also ordered that Swanson be released on his own recognizance, with the addition of a ‘no-contact’ order.
This means Swanson will soon be able to return home after nearly 72 hours behind bars, but will not be allowed on the premises of the Ohio Eastern Star Home, where the alleged crime occurred. He also will not be able to make any sort of contact – either direct or indirect – with the alleged victim in this case.
If Swanson violates the court’s orders, he will return to jail until his next court appearance.
Spaulding made the motion to release Swanson on his own recognizance, as he informed the judge that “Mr. Swanson has no prior criminal record,” and “is a longstanding member of the community.”
Brian Morgan, the Knox County assistant prosecuting attorney, told the judge that he was not opposed to the ‘OR’ order, but he would like to add a ‘no-contact’ clause to the terms.
Morgan told reporters the prosecutor’s office felt comfortable with the OR order because it felt Swanson is not a threat to flee the jurisdiction, and he will return for future court hearings. The severity of the alleged crime is also taken into account in situations like this, Morgan said.
“The more severe a crime you face, the more likely it is that you’re going to want to take off,” he said.
The alleged victim in this case is still living in the Ohio Eastern Star Home, Morgan confirmed.
While the court set a preliminary hearing for Oct. 4, Kimbler said he anticipated the case will go before a grand jury before that date. If that happens, a grand jury will examine the evidence and decide whether evidence is sufficient to determine ‘probable cause,’ meaning it is more likely than not that a crime has been committed.
If the grand jury came to this conclusion, it would issue an indictment and the case would proceed.
If the prosecutor’s office could not get the case before a grand jury before Oct. 4, Swanson would have the right to a preliminary hearing, where a judge would determine probable cause based on the evidence. He would also have the right to waive the hearing altogether, thus acknowledging probable cause and allowing the case to move forward.
The next step after that, Morgan said, would be pretrial hearings.
Spaulding, who bears the same last name as MVNU President Dr. Henry W. Spaulding II but has no affiliation with the president or the university, declined to comment on his client’s charges following Friday’s court appearance.
“I want to speak to the family first in some more detail before any statement is provided,” Spaulding said.
Swanson, 67, was arrested Tuesday and charged with gross sexual imposition following an alleged incident Sept. 21 at the Ohio Eastern Star Home in Mount Vernon, according to court and police records.
The arrest warrant for Swanson, filed in Mount Vernon Municipal Court on Tuesday, alleges nursing home staff saw Swanson exposing himself and forcing the female victim to make sexual contact with him inside the home. The warrant alleges Swanson knew the victim’s ability to resist or consent was “impaired by a physical or mental condition.”
Three staff members allegedly witnessed the incident at 4:15 p.m. An officer from the Mount Vernon Police Department responded to the scene 14 minutes later. Swanson was listed as a "visitor" at the facility.
Under the Ohio Revised Code, Swanson faces a potential sentence of six to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $5,000 if found guilty. The Mount Vernon Police Department's detective division is handling the ongoing investigation.
Swanson, a longtime volleyball coach and physical education professor at MVNU, has been placed on administrative leave, according to a statement from the university.