Henry says he requested a meeting with Kelly and Chambers in a last-ditch effort to avoid a trial and a possible habitual conviction. "I did my presentation and asked them to take the bitch off the table," he says. "I went through our evidence. Ms. Chambers said, 'Well, the guy has a broken nose, and I don't tell my DAs what to do. If anyone wants to change anything, I won't interfere. Nice of you to come in.' There was no discussion. No questions. Zero."

The case went to trial in March. Christensen testified that he still experienced headaches as a result of the beating. Swanson, who'd let his hair grow in since the concert, shaved his head mid-trial in order to demonstrate that he didn't have the tattoo on his head that the security staffer had described. But Henry declined to put Swanson on the stand, knowing that the prosecution could then ask about his prior convictions.

The jury listened to the witnesses, examined the evidence and deliberated for a few hours before finding Swanson guilty of second-degree assault.

Investigators took more photos of James Christensen's injuries three days after the concert.
Investigators took more photos of James Christensen's injuries three days after the concert.
Eric Swanson (pictured) and Jeramie Gerhardt were originally charged with a municipal violation at the 2010 Mayhem Festival; the next day the case was refiled as a felony assault.
Eric Swanson (pictured) and Jeramie Gerhardt were originally charged with a municipal violation at the 2010 Mayhem Festival; the next day the case was refiled as a felony assault.

*****

Sitting in the Arapahoe County jail, waiting to find out just how many years he's going to have to serve for what he claims wasn't his fight, Eric Swanson has plenty of time to reflect on what brought him here. It's not a pretty story, but he doesn't have any trouble telling it.

Yes, he says, he was a dope fiend once. Big time. Yes, he's been in prison and messed up on parole. Yes, there was a time when he bought into "the white-power thing," but not anymore. That's all past. Or he thought it was. The past, he's discovering, has a way of coming back and biting you in the ass.

Born in New Mexico but raised in the Denver area, Swanson remembers his childhood as being chaotic. His parents split when he was five. He bounced back and forth between them for years. Longtime friends of the family say he was exposed to drug abuse and violence from an early age.

"I've known him since he was five," says Shelley McMillan. "After his mom and dad divorced, his father was basically absent. His mom got involved in a string of abusive relationships. Eric was basically left to fend for himself."

Hal Swanson, Eric's father, describes him as easygoing, loyal to a fault — and, as a teenager, someone who frequently engaged in "repetitive, addictive, self-destructive behavior." The elder Swanson, a systems analyst at Children's Hospital, recalls getting a call from the police saying that Eric was selling LSD on school grounds at Arvada High School. Eric lived with him for a few months, he adds, "but it was quickly apparent that he was running drugs. I told him I can't have that."

Eric remembers first smoking meth when he was sixteen or seventeen — and soon getting in over his head. By the time he was in his early twenties, he had been arrested several times on drug charges and related cases, including a stolen credit card and a stolen car. The felony counts piled up in three counties. Finally, in 2002 he pleaded guilty to unlawful manufacture of a controlled substance — he was involved in a meth cook in an Adams County motel — and received a four-year prison sentence, to be served concurrently with a sentence for theft and forgery convictions out of Jefferson County.

"It took me a couple of years to come out of my fog," he says of his time behind bars. "I was a major drug user at that point, and my synapses were all screwed up."

He was 26 when he went to prison, 33 by the time he completed his parole in early 2010, just a few months before the Mayhem concert. He says he's been clean, for the most part, for the past decade. "I've had some slips," he admits. "It's hard to say no if I'm in the right environment, so I try to stay away from that environment."

His father visited him at the Sterling Correctional Facility and found him withdrawn. "My hope for him was that he would get his life together and gain an education," Hal Swanson says. "I wanted him to be self-sufficient and happy. But he has a history of not being able to break free of the wrong people."

At Sterling, Eric Swanson became affiliated with white gang members who cultivated the skinhead look and Nazi ink. He describes it as a logical choice, given the limited options for an incarcerated young white male in search of a safe place in the pecking order. "There's slim pickings as far as who you can kick with," he says. "You ain't gonna kick with the fags. You ain't gonna kick with the naks. It is what it is, man."

But allying himself with a white prison gang, he acknowledges, has cost him dearly over the years. His parole was revoked at one point because his parole officer found gang paraphernalia, including a swastika flag, at his residence. He had further parole problems over his association with another parolee, Tamra, whom he'd met through his prison connections. Swanson credits Tamra, now his ex-wife, with helping to steer him away from his old drug buddies.

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15 comments
Stephen Roth
Stephen Roth

Thanks for airing her side of the story. It isn't entirely true, but it is her side of the story.

No name
No name

The motto for Carol Chambers & her posse of DA's should be: Arapahoe County- don't come here lookin' for justice cuz all you're gonna find is 'Just Us'.They won't even kiss you before they screw you.

Guest
Guest

Re-read the story.... Mr Swanson, (the guy being 'Bitched') is not the man who assaulted the victim. The men who were involved in the assault have no problem letting a former friend take the fall for their actions. Mr Gerhardt accepted a plea bargain of 90 days in jail, probation & will have to perform community service. Mr Swanson on the other hand-is looking at 64 years in prison for an assault that his friends committed. Mr Swanson didn't hurt anyone-

calhounp
calhounp

i'd like to publish some of these comments in our print letters to the editor section, ideally with your full name/town. Let me know if that's okay at patricia.calhoun@westword.com

Alice Hoffman
Alice Hoffman

Yea well we havent seen anything yet for Los Angeles but there is a big gap in Dates after the San Jose show.. so It may be Neil will annouce Dates for Los Angeles soon.Neil Diamond tickets

Guest
Guest

If Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln counties want to keep Chambers as a D.A., isn't there some way those counties can be required to pick up the tab for keeping all these "bitched" offenders in prison all those years?

Amy Taylor
Amy Taylor

I was never the biggest Tim Mcgraw fan but I wouldn't mind seeing his concert in Atlanta. That said, tickets here starts at $57 (before the inconvenience charges) so I'll be passing on that one.Tim Mcgraw tickets

Bob
Bob

That is messed up. I actually feel bad for the dude with the swastica.

Never thought that would happen.

Youknow
Youknow

So he has been arrested again and again, " habitually " one might say but for some reason this time it is supposed to be different? What do we have to wait for this guy to really hurt someone, oh wait, HE DID. Sounds to me like one of the few times the law might work.

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who cares
who cares

Stupid music attracts stupid people !!!

mat
mat

That swnson weirdo is guilty. Go to jail. And the gerhert guy.. go lift some weight lmao. Can't even fight your own fight

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