CEDAR CITY —A 5th District judge digressed from the state’s sentencing guidelines Friday when he handed down the maximum sentence to a defendant two sheriff’s deputies say changed their lives forever when he shot at them three years ago.
Judge James L. Shumate sentenced Grant Louis Biedermann to two zero-5 year prison terms and six more months in the county jail after hearing from Iron County Sheriff’s Deputies Kellen Hudson and Cpl. Jeff Humphries.
Biedermann was originally charged with two first-degree felonies for aggravated attempted murder following an incident Dec. 13, 2013, in which he fired a .40-caliber assault rifle on the two deputies, injuring Hudson below his bulletproof vest and above his belt.
The deputies had gone to Biedermann’s trailer home in Kanarraville that day to assist the defendant after receiving a 911 call reporting he was suicidal.
“Since this incident, my life has had very high highs and very low lows which are all because of this incident,” Hudson said. “This event has changed me in such a way it is almost a baptism by fire to where the ‘Deputy Kellen Hudson’ before Dec. 13, 2013, no longer exists, that I am a different person because of it. Grant Biedermann changed my life to such a degree it will never be the same.”
Humphries’ voice broke while relating to the judge how he felt that day as the supervisor over Hudson that was making the decisions and calling the shots.
“As for Mr. Hudson, he was a fairly new officer just off PTO (police training officer program), who I trained. I made the decision how we were going to approach his (Biedermann’s) house. I made that call,” Humphries said. “And as this incident unfolded and I hear the guy that I trained – that I’m supervising – say I’m hit, what hits you at that moment is something you can never take back, you can never change.”
A jury found Biedermann guilty on lesser charges in July, convicting him of two third-degree felonies for aggravated assault and carrying a dangerous weapon while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, a class B misdemeanor.
In an emotional plea to the court, Humphries told the judge that while he had been referred to as a “victim” in this case, he had never felt that way until the jury came back with the verdict. The deputy asked Shumate not follow suit but instead give Biedermann the maximum sentence allowed by law.
“I understand what he was convicted with and I know you heard the whole trial as well. I’m just asking that for true justice to occur, he needs to be sentenced to the maximum possible under that conviction,” Humphries said. “I made it through 18 years without having to make a decision to take a man’s life. I made that decision that day. And lucky for him it played out the way it did and for him to force that decision upon me there has to be a price”
After hearing the deputies’ pleas, Shumate ordered the men’s wives also be considered “victims” in this case, giving them an opportunity to seek the same help and resources as their husbands including counseling. He ordered the Iron County Attorney’s Office to assist accordingly.
Before sentencing Biedermann, Shumate issued several insights from the bench offering his opinion on the case several times.
“It is a specific finding of the court that in the experience of this 23 years on the bench and 40-plus years in the trial courtroom that Mr. Biedermann’s actions were closest to a homicidal circumstance that I’ve ever seen that didn’t end up that way,” the judge said. “In my experience, I’ve never seen someone fire nine rounds in this setting and not cause the death of another. In the seriousness of violent behavior, it is the most extreme and egregious, and I find that in total concurrence by the court in the pre-sentence report for prison.”
Shumate admonished Biedermann for even thinking the bullet from his gun inadvertently hit Hudson when it ricocheted off the officer’s truck – an argument the defendant’s attorney posed to the jury to create doubt and eliminate the issue of intent.
“Stop kidding yourself that Deputy Hudson was hit by a ricochet. The size of his wound, the thorough and through nature of his wound, his position in respect to your rifle tells me with no question he was hit by one of your rounds,” Shumate said. “So don’t lie to yourself anymore. That’s one of the things addicts do. They lie, cheat and steal. And you’re lying to yourself if you think you weren’t the person who put that scar on Deputy Hudson.”
In issuing his sentence, the judge said he has “to recognize the impact, professionalism and the restraint of the sheriff’s deputies” that didn’t kill him “when they could have, and they didn’t.”
“The fact that Jeff Humphries allowed you to walk up to him, still with a weapon in your hand, and didn’t shoot you dead right there is absolutely astounding,” Shumate said. “Again it is a testament of the quality of the officers in this case.”
“The fact that Deputy Hudson, in the same circumstances, chose nonlethal rather than go to the pistol on his hip or the rifle in his hands, and (instead) shoot at you with a taser – speaks more than all the protest marches he could ever ask for.”
The exact length of Biedermann’s prison sentence will be determined by the Utah Board of Pardons. However, it’s likely he won’t do more than a year, his attorney Greg Skordas said.
Following the court hearing, Hudson and Humphries both told Cedar City News that while they aren’t happy about the sentence they know the judge did the best he could given the conviction verdict by the jury.
“It helps a little bit knowing that the judge did the best he could with what he had to work with,” Hudson said. “But it’s difficult to think about someone who so drastically changed my life may one day walk the streets again and I may one day run into him again. It’s terrifying is what it is. My hope is he will get the help he needs so I don’t ever have to run into him again or deal with him again but we know what recidivism rate is like.”
Sheriff Mark Gower said he wasn’t pleased with how the case played out in the courtroom with the jury but he appreciates that the judge sentenced Biedermann to the maximum sentence available under the law.
“I’m not happy about the jury’s findings. I wasn’t then and I’m not now,” Gower said. “And I don’t feel the sentence was enough but I understand the judge’s hands were tied to a certain extent and he could only do what he could do. And it does help knowing Biedermann received the maximum sentence he could get.”
The deputies’ supervisor, Sgt. Nik Johnson, said he has witnessed firsthand how this event has changed the officers’ lives and knows the impact from it will last a lifetime.
“Biedermann sentence is going to be done in 10 years, one way or another; these guys, it’s a life sentence already,” Johnson said. “They will deal with this event forever.”
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