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'Zip-tie bandit' mastermind gets 37 years ; Judge denounces Swain for traumatizing store clerks by choking them during series of armed robberies

Art Swain Jr., mastermind of the "zip-tie bandit" crimes that terrorized local businesses last year, was ordered Wednesday to spend up to 37 years in state prison for a series of armed robberies.

As Swain, 21, stood with a smirk on his face, State Supreme Court Justice Christopher J. Burns denounced him as "a narcissistic and misdirected individual" who left his victims traumatized and anxious.

When Swain was being led from court, he turned to the judge and prosecutor with a smile on his face and said, "See you soon."

Burns rejected Swain's post-trial dismissal motions. "There's no disguising your guilt," he said.

The judge also ordered Swain, who served as his own attorney, to pay $2,000 in court fees out of his prison wages.

During sentencing, Swain spent 15 minutes reading a series of post-trial motions and continually referring to himself as "the defendant." After being denounced by the judge, Swain responded, "Nature has its own way of correcting itself." He also predicted his convictions would be overturned on appeal.

Court officials said they doubted that the state's appellate court would set aside either of Swain's convictions but said it could reduce the consecutive sentences to a combined 20 years due to legal quirks in the state's criminal procedure and penal laws.

Swain has been jailed since his arrest March 2 at Katz Jewelers, 3771 Delaware Ave., Town of Tonawanda. Town police seized a loaded AK-47 assault rifle after a citizen called 911 about Swain and a suspicious man hanging out in the store.

He was convicted of attempting to rob that store and collecting almost $10,000 in armed holdups last Jan. 14 and 27, and Feb. 5 , 9 and 24. A jury in Buffalo convicted him Nov. 19.

He still faces sentencing March 3 in Niagara County on his Jan. 5 robbery conviction for a gunpoint holdup Feb. 9 at the Universal Wireless store in Niagara Falls. State Supreme Court Justice Richard C. Kloch Sr. could impose an additional 15-year prison term on that conviction.

During Wednesday's sentencing, prosecutors Paul C. Parisi and Ashley M. Morgan urged the judge to impose a stiff sentence for what they described as his escalating armed robberies that began with him using a fake gun and ended with the seizure of the loaded AK-47 rifle.

Parisi denounced Swain for having terrorized the store clerks whom he and his admitted accomplice, Joshua Green, 20, robbed, noting he deliberately sought to humiliate his victims by choking them with zip-ties and stuffing a sock down the mouth of one woman.

Green, currently free on bail, faces a state prison term of at least 3 1/2 years on his guilty pleas to attempted robbery for assisting Swain in both the Erie County and Niagara County holdups.

As Wednesday's sentencing got under way, Burns ordered Swain to button up his shirt. When Swain asked the judge if that was necessary for the sentencing, the judge told him: "It is necessary for the decorum of the court."

e-mail: mgryta@buffnews.com

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