COLUMBIA — The federal ammunition trial for a man accused of abducting a Columbia teen is delayed and the man’s attorney said Tuesday that his client might plead guilty if he loses an argument to suppress certain evidence.
U.S. District Judge Cameron Currie said during a brief hearing that Freddie Grant can have more time to prepare his case because he recently retained a new attorney.
Currie set a January court date for Grant, 52, who has pleaded not guilty to being a felon in possession of ammunition. During a search of Grant’s house for Gabbiee Swainson, a 15-year-old Richland County girl last seen in August, authorities found.38-caliber bullets and shotgun shells – ammunition Grant isn’t allowed to have as a convicted felon.
Local authorities also lodged a kidnapping charge against Grant after the girl’s blood was found on duct tape near his home. Authorities have said he had dated Gabbiee’s mother and used a key he’d claimed to have lost to enter the family’s home and take the girl.
On Tuesday, John Delgado, Grant’s new attorney on the federal charge, said he would plan to file court papers early next month arguing that some evidence authorities have uncovered against his client should be suppressed. Currie tentatively set a January trial date for Grant, but Delgado also said in court that his client would likely plead guilty if he loses the evidence motion.
Grant didn’t speak much in court Tuesday, only answering routine questions from the judge on whether he understood the delay in his trial.
Gabbiee was last seen by her mother at around 4 a.m. on Aug. 18. Elvia Swainson has said she saw her daughter before she left for work in the northeast Columbia suburbs. When the mother returned home several hours later, Gabbiee’s alarm clock was ringing, and her only child was gone.
The teen’s clothes and her purse were at the home, authorities have said. The girl’s mother has said she hopes her daughter will be found safe, and the public has prayed for her return at candlelight vigils.
Elvia Swainson attended Tuesday’s hearing but declined to speak with reporters afterward.
Investigators have questioned the family and anyone who knew the girl. Grant was an obvious target because he was a convicted felon and deputies became even more suspicious when he refused to cooperate, according to Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott.
South Carolina state police records show Grant served prison time on drug charges in the 1990s. He also has a criminal record in Florida, where his drug convictions date back to the 1980s.
If convicted on the ammunition charge, Grant could face a possible life sentence if a judge determines that his prior convictions make Grant an armed career criminal, according to federal prosecutors.
Lott has used strong language to describe Grant’s alleged crimes, calling the man a “monster.” Grant’s attorneys have tried to quiet Lott’s public comments about Grant. A judge refused a request for a gag order against the sheriff but did warn Lott to limit his statements.