The week-long trial for Nicholas Allen Schwerdtfeger, a 35-year-old Great Bend man charged with aggravated indecent liberties with a child, ended in a hung jury last Friday in Barton County District Court. If convicted, Schwerdtfeger could have been received a life prison sentence under Jessica’s Law, enacted in Kansas in 2006, which significantly increased the penalties for people convicted of sexual offenses involving minors in Kansas.
The jury deliberation began around 11 a.m. Friday. At approximately 4 p.m. Friday, District Court Judge Carey Hipp declared a mistrial after the jury informed the court that they were deadlocked. The trial began on Monday, June 14, with jury selection. The jury heard evidence on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Friday began with the closing arguments of attorneys before deliberations began.
The State was represented by Barton County Attorney Levi Morris. The defendant was represented by Donald E. Anderson II and Audra Asher.
As a result of the mistrial, the State of Kansas has the option to set the matter for a second trial, Morris stated in a news release. He indicated that while the State anticipates proceeding with a second trial, a final decision has not been made.
After deliberations began, the jury foreman sent Judge Hipp a question, “Can we come up with a verdict with just testimony?” Hipp referred jurors to the first instruction they received. It reads, in part, “In your fact finding you should consider and weigh everything admitted into evidence. ... It is for you to determine the weight and credit to be given the testimony of each witness.”
A second question came later: “What if we cannot get a unanimous vote?” The judge responded by seeking clarification and asked if the jury had exhausted deliberations. The response was, “Yes, we have exhausted deliberations.”
The parties anticipate the Court will review the defendant’s bond early this week. When he was booked on Oct. 30, 2019, Schwerdtfeger’s bond was initially set at $1 million. It was reduced to $500,000 in January of 2020. In a motion seeking an own-recognizance bond for their client, Schwerdtfeger’s attorneys note he has been in custody for 600 days – close to one year and eight months. If released, he will be able to reside with family in Great Bend and he believes he can work for his former employer or start with a local company hauling farm commodities.
Schwerdtfeger was arrested after a sex offense that allegedly occurred on or about Sept. 7, 2019, in Great Bend was reported to Great Bend police by staff at Great Bend Middle School. School officials said the alleged incident did not happen on school grounds and Schwerdtfeger was not a USD 428 employee.
The formal charge indicated the victim’s year of birth was 2006, making the victim 12 or 13 years old at the time.
Schwerdtfeger is registered on the Kansas Bureau of Investigation’s website as a sex offender. He was previously convicted of attempted aggravated sexual battery of a 20-year-old victim that occurred on April 7, 2007, and of attempted indecent solicitation of a 16-year-old child for a sexual act that occurred on July 6 of 2007. Both crimes occurred in Great Bend. He was also convicted in Kingman County for having unlawful voluntary sex with a victim 14-16 years old in 2005, when he was 19 years old.