Crime - Sacto 911

Former co-defendant testifies against pair at murder trial

Andrew Les Johnson
Andrew Les Johnson

He said over the course of the day he had smoked methamphetamine and shot heroin. He did whiskey shots and beer at the bar and backed it up after closing time with a pair of alcoholic energy drinks.

Right in the middle of it all, Andrew Johnson said, he also had his head beaten in by an assailant wielding a set of brass knuckles.

In the two-year interim, Johnson testified Tuesday, he’s since been able to piece together most everything from the fuzzy Jan. 5, 2013, dawn when he kicked in Jack Swaim’s door, when he and three other men charged inside in what amounted to a fatally mistaken retaliatory attack.

A witness on Monday told the same Sacramento Superior Court jury that Johnson, 30, participated in the beating death of Swaim, 52, an oil field worker who was awakened on his living room couch when he was killed.

Johnson admitted that he directed the raiding party to the Swaim residence on Stonehand Avenue in Citrus Heights, in response to the brass-knuckled beating that had been delivered to him a few hours earlier by Swaim’s son. The younger Swaim suspected Johnson of trying to break into his truck.

“I did want to get my get-back,” Johnson testified.

But he denied laying a hand on Swaim.

“I didn’t want anybody to die,” he said.

Johnson repeated several times in his daylong trip to the witness stand in the murder trial of Jeffrey Douglas Powell and Christopher Lawrence Langlois that “I am taking responsibility for my actions” in Swaim’s death.

He also repeated at every opportunity that in spite of the drugs and the head trauma he endured, he still knows, “I didn’t murder anybody.”

A onetime co-defendant in the case, Johnson did, however, plead no-contest last month to voluntary manslaughter and is scheduled to be sentenced next month to 27 years in state prison.

As for Powell and Langlois, who are both 31, Johnson in his testimony delineated what he described as their responsibilities in the killing of Swaim.

Johnson said that after Jack Swaim’s son, Jimmy, belted him bloody for the suspected truck boosting, he called Powell and rousted him from a tryst with a woman in a Roseville motel.

“Don’t worry,” Johnson said Powell told him. “We’ll handle it. Come get me, and we’ll handle it.”

Johnson said a woman he’d just met in the middle of the night at the 7-Eleven around the corner from the Swaim residence drove him to pick up Powell. Next came a quick stop at Powell’s apartment on Manzanita Avenue in Carmichael, where the defendant changed clothes and retrieved some surgical latex gloves, Johnson testified. Then they headed to a house in Fair Oaks where they met up with Langlois and another man, Jason Payne. Now they were off to the Swaim residence, Johnson told the jury – with a methamphetamine pipe making its way around the car on the ride over.

Out in front of Swaim’s house, “For some reason, I didn’t feel comfortable,” Johnson testified, “and Chris says, ‘Too late. It’s time to go.’ ”

Johnson uttered an expletive and raced to kick in the front door, he said. The 6-foot-2, 240-pounder testified that once it was open, “Jeff and Chris ran right past me,” into the house, and “go directly at the individual.”

“I saw both of the individuals throwing punches, Jeff and Chris,” Johnson testified.

He said he knew right away they were taking it out on the wrong guy, that Jack Swaim was “an older gentleman,” with a huskier build than the son who had smacked him around earlier with the brass knuckles.

Johnson testified everybody sprinted out of the house within 10 seconds or so, but that the dying Swaim “lunged toward me” with a desperation grab. “I spun off of him,” Johnson said – and vomited on his way back to the car.

Driving away, Johnson said, everybody in the car was yelling in panic – except for Powell.

“He’s calm,” Johnson said.

Johnson testified he also saw Powell hand a knife to Langlois.

The weapon was never recovered.

In Monday’s testimony, the fourth man in the party, Payne, corroborated Johnson, saying he also saw Powell handling a knife in the car.

Payne, however, also testified that he witnessed Johnson participate in the punching of Swaim. Powell’s attorney, Keith J. Staten, asked Johnson on Tuesday if he was the real stabber, too.

“That is wrong,” Johnson replied. “That is incorrect.”

Langlois’ lawyer, Danny Brace, suggested it was Johnson who set the whole evening’s events in motion. The witness admitted that while he wanted some revenge, “I wasn’t the leader.”

In his testimony on Monday, Payne, who was never charged in the case, said he had to move out of town for cooperating with authorities.

Johnson on Tuesday said it made perfect sense to him that Powell would tell him he would handle the problem of the evening.

“I know he’s a bad dude,” Johnson said. “I know that.”

Call The Bee’s Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141. Follow him on Twitter @andyfurillo.

Related stories from Sacramento Bee