BANGOR — Carole and Marshall Swan, a Chelsea couple accused together and separately of defrauding the federal government, will have separate trials.

A federal judge late Friday granted Marshall Swan’s bid to have a separate trial after Carole Swan raised last-minute claims of spousal abuse, saying that had affected her decision-making and behavior.

U.S. District Court Judge John A. Woodcock Jr. wrote the decision that “basic fairness of the trial is at issue, the defendant’s right to a fair trial must trump the extra expense” of holding separate trials.

“Despite the expenditure of additional resources that would result from multiple trials, the court agrees with Marshall Swan that Carole Swan’s allegations of spousal abuse raise the likelihood that a joint trial would be highly prejudicial to him, and the court grants his motion to sever and to continue,” Woodcock wrote.

Carole Swan, who spent 19 years as a Chelsea selectwoman, now goes on trial alone beginning Monday morning in Bangor. The trial had been expected to take three weeks.

Her attorney, Leonard Sharon, continues to mount a defense that an abusive husband is responsible for any of Carole Swan’s misdeeds and wants potential jurors queried about domestic abuse.

Swan filed seven new questions Friday ahead of jury selection, which is set for Monday in U.S. District Court in Bangor. One of Sharon’s proposed juror questions asks, “Do you believe that a victim of domestic violence could stay with her abuser for decades without reporting it?”

An affidavit by a domestic-violence worker indicates that Carole Swan recently separated from her husband; however, there are no filings related to that or to any divorce in Augusta District Court.

The Swans were married in October 1984.

Carole Swan, 55, and her husband, Marshall Swan, 56, face a series of fraud charges. The Swans are accused of five counts each of committing tax fraud by failing to declare a total of almost $674,000 over tax years 2006 to 2010.

Carole Swan alone is charged with four counts of making false statements between 2008 and 2011 to obtain Federal Workers’ Compensation.

The government says she defrauded the compensation program by collecting almost $205,000 in wage loss benefits, claiming she was totally incapacitated by a right shoulder injury suffered in the 1990s while working for the U.S. Postal Service.

The government maintains she lied by concealing her ownership interest and participation in the construction company as well as a harness racing business and underreported her work— and income — as a Chelsea selectwoman and assessor.

The government also has charged Carole Swan with committing fraud in 2007 on a program receiving federal funds. In that case, she is accused of inflating the cost of a culvert so Marshall Swan Construction, the company she and her husband own, could win the project bid from the town of Chelsea. Marshall Swan faces one count of aiding and abetting in that alleged fraud.

The Swans have pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

Carole Swan also is charged with three counts of Hobbs Act extortion for allegedly extorting $20,000 between January 2010 and February 2012 from Frank Monroe Construction. In return, Swan allegedly awarded town jobs to the firm, which is run by Frank Monroe, of Whitefield. Monroe, who has cooperated since then with authorities investigating Carole Swan, has not been charged.

A trial on the extortion charges already was planned to be held separately and has yet to be scheduled.

Earlier this week, Sharon filed a trial brief indicating at least one defense for his client would be that Carole Swan was a battered woman doing her husband’s bidding. Sharon said any mistakes can be attributed to that abuse and that she never intended to defraud the government.

Swan has testified previously in court that she is illiterate as a defense against the accusations.

In response to the recent allegations of domestic abuse, Marshall Swan’s attorney, Walter McKee, renewed an effort to have the trials separated.

According to court documents filed Friday by Sharon, Marshal Swan is listed as a potential witness to be called at his wife’s trial.

“The government cried foul, suggesting that the late revelation of spousal abuse was strategic, perhaps a joint defense ploy to obtain separate trials,” Woodcock wrote, at one point noting, “No one was happy.”

Jury selection in Carole Swan’s trial on fraud charges is set to begin at 8:30 a.m. Monday, with the trial to begin at 9 a.m. No date was set for Marshall Swan’s trial.

Betty Adams — 621-5631
[email protected]