Gavel stock

NEW ALBANY — A trial date has been set for the reopened federal case of a man who pleaded guilty in 1992 to carrying a gun while committing a crime of violence, when police say he placed a pipe bomb under an officer's car.

Charles E. Sweeney, 58, pleaded guilty in 1992 to one charge of a seven-charge indictment; he was sentenced to 210 months in a federal prison, the executed portion of which he completed in 2007. Sweeney is currently serving a 60-year state sentence for the murder of acquaintance, a case which was under investigation when police say Sweeney put the bomb under the car of an investigating officer.

On Sept. 11, U.S. District Court Judge for Southern Indiana Sarah Evans ruled that the federal conviction is unconstitutional, and that the sentence and plea agreement be vacated. This ruling was in response to a 2018 motion by Sweeney to reopen the case, based on post-conviction ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that the definition of a crime of violence was vague.

The new trial is scheduled for 9 a.m. Nov. 12 at the United States Courthouse in New Albany. Sweeney is represented by Sara Varner, a Federal Community Defender. Cindy Jane Cho is representing the U.S.A.

Sweeney's other charges in the federal case included distribution of methamphetamine, carrying a firearm in the process of drug trafficking and possession of a firearm by a felon.

In the state case, The News and Tribune previously reported that in 1992, Sweeney had made an arrangement with acquaintance Daniel Guthrie to trade 150 marijuana plants for a saddle. Sweeney told police he had provided the victim with a 9-mm handgun, a bucket and shovel and directions to the plants, before the two parted ways.

His wife reported him missing the following day, and Sweeney later told police he had found him dead with a single gunshot wound and had buried his body to keep investigators from finding out about the marijuana. He later led police to the body, believing he was under immunity.

For this conviction, Sweeney is currently being held in Wabash Valley Correctional Facility in Carlisle, Ind. Online records show his earliest possible release date is Nov. 7, 2036. Following the state sentence, he was expected to serve five years under federal supervision for the federal charge which could change based on the outcome of the trial.

Aprile Rickert is the crime and courts reporter at the News and Tribune. Contact her via email at or by phone at 812-206-2115. Follow her on Twitter: @Aperoll27.

Recommended for you