INDIANA — A Clark County man convicted in 1995 of killing an acquaintance after making a deal involving 150 marijuana plants could be released sooner than expected, following a judge’s decision to dismiss a related federal charge for which he’s already served his time.
On Jan. 16, U.S. District Court Judge for Southern Indiana Sarah Evans dismissed the nearly 30-year-old federal conviction of Charles Sweeney, 59, who pleaded guilty to placing a pipe bomb under a detective’s car while he was being investigated for murder. Now Sweeney is petitioning to get the 210 months he served in that case credited toward the 60-year state sentence he’s currently serving.
Sweeney pleaded guilty in 1992 to one count of a seven-charge federal indictment after police say he placed a pipe bomb under the car of a detective investigating him for murder. He was later convicted of the murder and sentenced to 60 years by a Clark County judge — 40 plus 20 years for aggravating factors.
Sweeney completed the executed portion of the federal sentence in May 2007; before the dismissal, he was expected to serve five years’ probation for the federal charge following execution of his state sentence.
But on Sept. 11, U.S. District Court Judge for Southern Indiana Sarah Evans ruled that the federal charge was unconstitutional. Her ruling included that the sentence and plea agreement Sweeney entered be vacated and reset for a new trial. On Jan. 16, the court approved Sweeney’s motion to dismiss the remaining indictment in the nearly three decade old case.
“Significant time has passed since the defendant pleaded guilty to placing a pipe bomb underneath the car of a local detective who was investigating the defendant for murder charges,” his motion reads, in part. “Much evidence and testimony are no longer available.”
A subsequent motion filed by Sweeney states that since Sweeney’s federal conviction has been dismissed, the sentence he served should be viewed as jail time served while awaiting trial for the murder.
“A person confined awaiting trial or sentence is statutorily entitled to one day of credit for each day he is so confined,” it reads. “Therefore, pre-sentence jail time is a matter of statutory right, not of judicial discretion.”
Court records show Sweeney served 183 months in jail before starting the state sentence in May 2007, or just over 15 years. Indiana State prison records show he is currently at the Wabash Valley Level 4 Correctional Facility. His earliest possible release date is shown as Nov. 7, 2036; if he is granted the credited time, Sweeney could be released in less than a year.
The News and Tribune previously reported that in 1992 prior to the murder, Sweeney and acquaintance Daniel Guthrie had made arrangements to trade 150 marijuana plants for a saddle. Guthrie’s wife reported him missing the following day, and Sweeney, believing he was under immunity, led police to his body.
He told investigators that after making arrangements for the trade, Sweeney had given Guthrie directions to the marijuana plants, a 9mm handgun, a bucket and a shovel. He said he later found him dead with a single gunshot wound, and had buried him to keep investigators from learning about the marijuana.