CEDAR CITY – Criminal defense attorney Greg Skordas closed his arguments Wednesday by telling the jury his client Grant Louis Biedermann is guilty of something – just not two first-degree felonies of aggravated attempted murder – and the jury agreed.
Biedermann, 43, was originally charged with two first-degree felonies following an incident in 2013 in which he fired a .40-caliber assault rifle on two Iron County Sheriff’s deputies, injuring Deputy Kellen Hudson below his bulletproof vest and above his belt.
The jury found Biedermann guilty on two lesser charges of aggravated assault, both third-degree felonies, two degrees lower than the initial charges. Biedermann was also convicted of a class B misdemeanor of carrying a dangerous weapon while under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
The three-day trial was held in front of 5th District Judge James L. Shumate.
During the preliminary hearing in 2014, Biedermann’s then-criminal defense attorney Jack Burns raised questions that introduced the possibility of different motives as to whether or not Biedermann intended to hit Hudson when he allegedly fired his gun or was just randomly shooting to entice fire from the officers in an attempt to commit “suicide by cop.”
It was this argument Skordas used to win his case, proving to the eight-member jury that his client did not “intend to kill” the officers.
With his client in tears throughout closing arguments, Skordas argued Biedermann was suffering a type of mental breakdown at the time of the incident.
“Grant was on a roller coaster that was going straight to hell and something was going to end badly for Grant. And this entire incident is on Grant – 100 percent of it,” Skordas said. “And that’s why I asked you at the beginning of the trial and I’m going to ask you at the end of the trial to find him guilty.”
Iron County Attorney Scott Garrett tried countering Skordas’ arguments pointing to the video of the scene that showed Biedermann fired the gun at the deputies in an attempt to “kill them,” but failed to make his case.
“’You have 20 seconds to leave or you’ll never see your kids again.’ That is the statement that both Deputy Hudson and Deputy (Jeff) Humphries testified to. That was the statement made by Grant Biedermann when they were out there, when they arrived on scene and they were trying to talk him out of the house,” Garrett said. “That’s the first piece of evidence I would ask you to consider.”
The bullet that hit Hudson was never recovered and while Skordas tried on Monday, during the initial day of trial, to cast doubt as to whether the bullet that hit Hudson was actually from Biedermann’s gun, evidence over the next two days showed otherwise.
The video from the scene and testimony from forensic expert Mickelle Croft showed that the .223 rounds from the deputies’ guns would not have made the 4-inch bullet hole that went right through Hudson’s back.
Croft testified to evidence taken from the scene showing the .223 rounds fragmented on impact, which Hudson told Cedar City News would have left a different bullet hole.
“I’ve been hit with a .223 ricochet on the shooting range when I was in the military. It hits you and falls to the ground. It doesn’t even pierce the clothes,” Hudson said. “It’s a small high velocity round and had I been hit with that bullet rather than the .40-caliber, the bullet hole would have had tearing and shredding. It would have been a different kind of hole than the one I have. And the deformity would have torn me up inside and that’s saying, if the bullet would have maintained the same velocity in a ricochet, which is very unlikely.”
Following court, Skordas said it’s the first time he’s ever told a jury his client his guilty.
“I think it was a fair verdict. I think it was something that was supported by the facts, something we asked for,” Skordas said. “I think everyone won today because it was something that was consistent with everything we’ve heard about this case and learned about his case over the last almost three years. But I also think it was hard for the state to prove that there was an intent to take their lives. That was one of the first times I’ve ever asked a jury to find my client guilty of the lower crime. And they did.”
Iron County Attorney Scott Garrett said he felt the state had a good case and was a little surprised at the verdict.
“It was three days, a lot of energy – a lot of emotion,” Garrett said. “We were arguing for aggravated attempted murder, the jury convicted on a lesser charge of aggravated assault. It wasn’t quite what we hoped for but we do respect the jury’s decision and the process of course.”
Iron County Sheriff Mark Gower was apparently shaken up after court knowing his men had undergone a traumatic ordeal and now, he said, had not received the justice they deserved.
While Gower did not feel the verdict sent a message of “open season” on police officers, he said he hopes it doesn’t influence someone else to do the same thing.
“It’s a lighter conviction than I hoped for and I hope that wouldn’t influence somebody out there that has propensities that want to shoot a police officer that they can get away with a light sentence,” Gower said. “I think each case writes its own rules, each case has its own set of evidence that’s ruled upon, but again I am not really pleased with the verdict.”
Gower said he respects the jury process but does not agree with the verdict.
“I’m disappointed with the verdict, but I want to qualify that: I think the jury ruled on the case that was presented to them,” Gower said.
Biedermann is scheduled to be sentenced in July following a pre-sentence investigation. Each third-degree felony carries a zero-to-five-year sentence. He has already spent more than three years in the Iron County Jail.
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