After spending nearly 20 years behind bars for second-degree murder, former pro skateboarder Josh Swindell was released from prison last week in California.
Convicted in October 1995 and sentenced to 15 years-to-life for the 1993 beating death of 31-year-old Keith Ogden outside a bar in Azusa, Calif., Swindell served in half a dozen state prisons before his release on Sept. 5 from the California Men's Colony in San Luis Obispo.
"I had to grow up to get out of prison," Swindell, 40, told ESPN.com over the phone earlier Tuesday as he and a friend drove to the skatepark in his hometown of Diamond Bar. "I learned a lot about why I did that crime, and it had to do with my underlying issues -- a lot of ego, pride and stubbornness that wouldn't allow me to let stuff go."
Riding for Think, Venture and Vans at the time, Swindell said he became enraged that night in the bar after hearing that Ogden had sucker-punched his good friend and fellow XYZ skate shop team rider Danny Way.
"I was drunk and irrational," Swindell said. "And I attacked [Ogden] brutally, no bones about it. It's the biggest mistake a person can make. I took everything from him and his family."
Steve Mateus, who is now the director of core marketing and athlete management at Rockstar energy drink, was also charged with Ogden's murder. According to news reports at the time, Mateus pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in return for a six-year sentence, and he testified that Swindell dragged Ogden out of the bar and kicked him several times in the head.
Swindell told ESPN.com that at the time, he was "a complete moron" who had been drinking heavily since the age of 12. And now, after 19 years, one month, and 8 days behind bars, he says, he's a changed man.
"You could say I'm physically and mentally sober now," he said, adding, "This [sobriety] is a lifetime commitment."
During Swindell's parole hearing earlier this year, commissioner Gilbert Robles said, "We have determined that Mr. Swindell would not pose an unreasonable risk to the community if released from prison," according to a transcript.
Robles added that Swindell's ongoing commitment to sobriety, statements of remorse for his crime, and favorable results from recent psychological evaluations all contributed to the parole board's opinion that he is "a low risk to commit future violent behavior."
Swindell is now living in San Bernardino and says he plans to accept an offer as the team manager of Chapter Clothing as soon as he gets his drivers license and a vehicle.