At the same time, he adds, "I wish I'd never met her. She helped me get out of the meth, but she got me into another world, more than I already was: the skinheads."

Since his 2009 release, Swanson has worked in construction (including a job on the just-opened History Colorado Center) and pursued his journeyman electrician's license. He volunteers at his church, working with the homeless. He says he's "gotten away from that skinhead mentality" and now has friends "in all walks of life."

"I can't look at one person and degrade their whole race," he says. "People who use you and manipulate you to get what they want, they're the ones who are niggers to me. I've met more people in the white-power thing who are niggers than anywhere else."

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.

Close friends, including Steve and Kim Roth, an older couple with whom Swanson has been living the past few years, say he's made a dramatic break with his past since his parole. "I have to admire him for making some difficult decisions about the people he used to hang out with," says Steve Roth.

Yet it's easy to see why people might be skeptical of Swanson's transformation. There's an occasional post on his Facebook page ("When folks are white with the world?! Life is so much more worth while!") that suggests he hasn't entirely shed his racist beliefs. And there's that swastika tattoo on his back.

"At this point, I don't want to get rid of it," he says. "It's part of me. Part of where I've been. Yeah, it's a target inside. But how you walk, how you talk — that's what matters."

Over the years, Mike Kirkpatrick has been Swanson's employer, confidant, mentor, surrogate dad — and at one point, when they were both homeless and desperate addicts, his fellow meth cook. He insists that the Eric he knows isn't a violent person or a gang member.

"For a while he embraced it, but he's not a skinhead," Kirkpatrick says. "There was a moment when he got himself tagged, and now he has to carry that with him and explain to people what was going on in his head."

But what was going on in his head the night Swanson went to Mayhem — and ended up facing a long prison stretch for an attack on a stranger?

The concert was the day before Swanson's 34th birthday. He and Tamra were still together at the time, and it was through her that he'd met Gerhardt and Buckner, who invited the couple to Mayhem as their guests. Swanson likes to mosh at metal shows, but he didn't join any pits at the concert. "To me, it's a fun way to get rid of aggression," he says. "But there's etiquette to a mosh, and that day I wasn't partaking."

Swanson says he had several beers that afternoon, went off to relieve himself, and was talking to another couple of friends in a different part of the amphitheater at the time the videos were taken of Buckner and Gerhardt getting into scuffles along the walkway: "They said I was part of this group that was causing havoc. I wasn't."

He returned to the area just in time to get mixed up in that "tangle of bodies" one witness described. "I was trying to find the wife," Swanson says, "looking up to see where she's at, and I got hit from behind. I don't know if it was a fight or what. I fell and grabbed hold of somebody, and then people are on the ground, getting hit. I got scared and tried to get out of the situation, and then this security guard grabbed me."

His account scrupulously omits any mention of Gerhardt — who lists his college on Facebook as the "busted knuckles school of hard learning."

Hal Swanson suspects his son is protecting his friend. "I think he had the perception that his friend was getting beat up, and he came to his aid," he says. "Sure, he shares some guilt in this. They were drunk, they were rowdy. But I don't believe he's deserving of a habitual-criminal conviction."

Swanson insists he's not responsible for Christensen's injuries. "If I had done this to the dude at random, okay, I could see them wanting to give me some time," he says. "But like this? I didn't hit him. I didn't kick him. That's why I went to trial."

But the jury found otherwise. The prosecution "painted a picture that wasn't me," Swanson insists. And now, with his sentence looming, he seems resigned to spending years of his life paying for mistakes past and present. "I don't think I should be going away for 32, 48, 64 years — whatever it is," he says. "But I've been at peace since I've been in here."

Last month Gerhardt pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of felony menacing in the Mayhem case. His plea arrangement calls for him to serve ninety days in jail and four years of probation — an entirely different outcome than what Swanson is facing for the same crime. Deputy District Attorney Kelly says that while she regards the two defendants as "equally culpable" in the attack, her office also considered mitigating information offered by Gerhardt's attorney, as well as his lack of prior felonies.

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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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