EVANSVILLE, Ind.-- Richard Grundy III faces a myriad of federal drug charges that could conceivably result in a life prison sentence if he’s convicted.
On Monday morning, Grundy did his best to convince U.S. District Judge Jane Magnus Stinson that he alone understood the case against him best and should act as his own attorney.
“I know how to present the evidence better than anybody,” Grundy told the judge. “I’m just asking for a fair shot at attacking what’s against me.”
In a federal courtroom with his own legal counsel, federal prosecutors, U.S. Marshals, court staff, a District judge, an FBI agent, onlookers and even two loved ones and a reporter watching, Grundy was alone in his contention that it was in his best interest to sideline current attorney Kenneth Riggins and take over his own defense.
“I got a lot of familiarity with criminal cases,” Grundy said. “I got books and I’ve been reading.”
Marion County prosecutors attempted twice to convict Grundy of murder, drug and conspiracy charges over the last several years and twice the charges were dropped or plea bargained away.
Authorities in Texas had the same results as investigators have alleged Grundy was the driving force behind a conspiracy to bring marijuana, methamphetamine and other drugs from Arizona to the streets of Indianapolis.
At one time, investigators suspected Grundy’s complicity in approximately two dozen murders in Indianapolis.
Weeks after he was released on state charges in 2017, Grundy was the target of an assassination attempt at a cemetery while attending a cousin’s funeral after she was murdered.
Grundy escaped with three bullet wounds.
Three months later he found himself again in handcuffs, this time as the result of a federal investigation reliant on wiretaps, undercover buys and confidential informants that rounded up two dozen people accused of dealing drugs.
Nineteen defendants have resolved their cases, often through plea agreements.
Grundy and four other men are fighting their charges and will go on trial next week in federal court in Evansville.
“People doubt my abilities,” he said. “If I lose I’m gonna get life.”
Grundy told the judge that he had achieved a General Equivalency Diploma and understood the charges against him and had never been treated for drug addiction or mental illness.
His decision to file a motion seeking to become his own attorney followed a mistrial during the first week of his initial trial when it was found juror security had been compromised.
Multiple sources have told FOX59 that investigators discovered a list of juror names in Grundy’s cell in the Marion County Jail.
“We’ve already had issues and that should not be repeated,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Brad Blackington told the Court when he expressed concern that Grundy would have access to sensitive wiretap, witness and jury documents if he were allowed to act as his own attorney. “Those items should not go to Mr. Grundy where he can disseminate them.
“I have no question that he would tamper with witnesses.”
“I been held in isolation,” he told the judge. “There’s no way I can tamper with witnesses.”
Grundy asked that if his motion was granted would he be allowed to view evidence and witness schedules on Riggins’ computer at the defense table.
“I want to see what’s gonna happen before it happens,” he said.
“We’ve had concerns about you accessing a computer last time,” Judge Magnus Stinson responded.
“He’s already engaged in serious obstructive misconduct and forced us to move (to Evansville),” said Blackington. “He’s already tampered with the jury.”
“I’m not trying to be obstructive,” Grundy said. “I’m not looking to manipulate the court system.”
Judge Magnus Stinson told Grundy he would remain shackled in court even as he argued his own case in front the jury, unable to leave the defense table.
Grundy verbally jousted with the judge as she indicated that a decision to go it alone could preclude the defendant from backing out of his self-representation strategy when the going got rough and asking for Riggins to be reinstated, perhaps she would even relegate the attorney to the courtroom’s gallery, away from the defense table.
“I been on my own since I was 15 so he’s not gonna hold my hand,” Grundy told the Court. “It's kind of hard to make my choice when I don’t know what your ruling is gonna be.”
After 40 minutes of debate the judge announced a recess to permit Grundy and Riggins to come a decision.
During recess negotiations, Blackington told Riggins that there was no guarantee he would be allowed back into the trial or would even want to if Grundy insisted on representing himself.
Twenty minutes passed and Judge Magnus Stinson re-entered the courtroom to ask Grundy if he had made his final decision.
“Do you need understand why you need a lawyer?” the judge asked.
One of the women who had blown Grundy a kiss during the recess softly said, “No,” as if pleading with him to accept the judge’s advice.
“I guess I can’t represent myself,” he said after more back-and-forth with the Court. “I’m just gonna have to keep counsel.”
“I think you’ve made the right choice,” said Judge Magnus Stinson.
“I’m being held responsible for things that didn’t have nothing to do with me,” said Grundy, disputing the conspiracy charges that could send him to prison for decades. “I don’t want to be laying on my bunk wondering if I made the right decision.”
“You work with Mr. Riggins, you’ll be fine,” advised the judge.
With that Grundy was returned to the custody of U.S. Marshals who will accompany him to southern Indiana for his six-week trial alongside his co-defendants next Monday.
Outside the courthouse the two women who flirted with Grundy from gallery politely refused comment except to say, “Free Richard,” as they walked away.
In recent years, Marion County prosecutors failed in their attempts to convict reputed Grundy hit man John Means of four murders he allegedly committed at the behest of his crew boss, sometimes blaming unreliable witnesses.
Grundy has historically utilized social media, even from inside his federal jail cell while awaiting trial, to warn witnesses about testifying against him.
The relocation of Grundy’s trial to Evansville might severely impact the defendant’s attempts to reach out to jurors, witnesses and informants or have hometown support in the courtroom gallery according to John Tompkins, an attorney who has represented clients of his own in federal court.
“I don’t think Mr. Grundy himself is in a position to have great influence in the community wherever this trial is held,” he said. “When you’re placed into custody in segregation in the federal system, when all of your phone calls and communications are monitored and reviewed, that’s just not a situation that you could reach out in the community and accomplish anything positive or negative.
“Now if there are other people who are trying to influence the community within his social circle or within his group, it is a mixed bag if they have a bad motive, then obviously moving it and making it more difficult for them to execute a bad motive is a good idea.
“If an organized and civil group shows up and sits behind a defendant in support of that defendant, jurors notice that in a positive way.”
Tompkins said he has had other clients who often argued that they should be allowed to act as their own attorneys in court.
“In a major felony or a major prosecution I’ve never heard of it working out,” he said. “It's never a good idea. And the old joke that, “An attorney who represents himself has a fool for a client,” holds true and if it’s a non-attorney trying to represent themselves, it's about ten times as bad.”