OGDEN -- The disbarment of one attorney representing Matthew David Stewart against charges that could lead to the death penalty won't affect the defense, Stewart's lead counsel, Randy Richards, said Wednesday.
Jonathon Grimes, a Salt Lake City lawyer considered a specialist in individual liberties, was disbarred Tuesday.
In a 14-page decision, the Utah Supreme Court found Grimes had taken a client's $7,070 trust account and used it for personal expenses in 2006. Grimes was one year out of the University of Utah law school at the time.
Grimes had originally been ordered suspended for 181 days by a 3rd District judge in Salt Lake in 2008.
However, on appeal by the Utah State Bar's Office of Public Conduct, the Supreme Court overruled the lower court and ordered his disbarment.
Grimes had been a member of the Stewart defense since May but likely will not be replaced, Richards said.
"All I know is he's a good guy," Richards said. "His work was very competent."
Richards said he brought Grimes on the team knowing he had been suspended in 2008. "He did a good job for us. He was very effective helping us with cross-examination at the preliminary hearing," he said, referring to the three-day hearing for Stewart that began Oct. 31.
Stewart faces the death penalty if convicted on charges stemming from a Jan. 4 shootout with police at his home during a Weber-Morgan Strike Force raid that left one police officer dead and five wounded.
The defense team, working off private funds with county appropriations as needed for experts and investigators, now includes Richards and three other lawyers.
"Obviously it's tough to lose a guy like that," Richards said, noting Grimes ran for Salt Lake County district attorney in 2010 on the Libertarian ticket. "But there's four of us. It won't impact the case. We'll forge ahead."
The next hearing in the case is a status conference Feb. 13 before 2nd District Judge Noel Hyde, with a bevy of defense motions common to a death penalty case expected.
In Grimes' case, the district court had found mitigating the fact he had earned only $13,000 in 2006, leading to emotional and marital problems with his wife and five children, according to the high court's findings. But the justices ruled "that Mr. Grimes failed to present truly compelling mitigating circumstances justifying a departure from the presumptive sanction of disbarment."