By Monica Alonzo
By Ray Stern
By New Times Staff
By Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Monica Alonzo
By Stephen Lemons
By Robrt L. Pela
Leslie first learned of Stant's involvement in the Kerrigan affair when one of Smith's teenage stepsons called her and said the FBI was at their house asking about Smith and Stant. Like most everyone, she had been heartbroken by the attack, and the thought that Shane had done it felt like a slap.
Stant drove straight back to Chandler that night and snuck in the back door of his house, because reporters and police had already staked out the front.
"I live in a predominantly Mexican and biker neighborhood," he says. "You look outside your window, you see a Ford Taurus with four or five suits sitting in it; I mean, even the kids know there's cops out there."
Leslie was beside herself. Stant wept. After talking on the phone to Smith, he snuck out the back door with Leslie's brother Lance, drove downtown to FBI headquarters in Phoenix and surrendered.
"They would never have caught me if it weren't for Shawn Eckardt," Stant says. Eckardt had openly bragged about arranging the hit to his classmates at a Portland community college, and one of them turned him in.
Stant's and Smith's roles in the assault may not have been as inept as has been portrayed.
For example, it was assumed that Stant had botched the job, because Kerrigan's injury turned out to be little more than a painful bruise. But it seems likely that he could have broken her leg if he had wanted to, especially if he had trained in stick fighting as he claims. Even if he hadn't, he's as strong as a horse, and the weapon he used is so perfectly weighted and expressly designed to inflict damage that a smaller, less-trained man could not have failed.
"You have to adjust for adrenaline," Stant says, for the adrenaline surge could make you hit all that much harder. "I knew it wouldn't take much strength." Perhaps as a salve for his conscience, he tells himself he's glad that he did it, because if someone else had been hired for the January 6 attack, that person might have seriously injured Kerrigan.
Stant and Smith have been called bumblers because they left an easily traced record of phone calls and credit-card stubs that made alibis impossible. Stant insists the paper trail was intentional and replies, "You're either going to get caught or you aren't. If you did this and I saw a photograph of you at Cobo Arena, and I asked if you were in Detroit and you said you were in Florida, they would know you're lying." Just because you were in Detroit staying at the Super 8 Motel, driving a rental car and phoning home wouldn't necessarily mean you committed the crime.
"My best defense is to say I'm stupid, and we're amateurs," he continues. How could the prosecutor say they were a menace to society and put them away forever after he had proven to the court that they were bumbling idiots?
@body:After Stant had spent three days in solitary confinement at the Madison Street Jail, a deputy came into his cell and said, "Your lawyer's here."
"I don't have a lawyer," Stant replied. But the deputy insisted that the visitor was persuasive, and Stant agreed to see what he wanted.
According to Stant's account, Merrill told Stant that he had been hired by Stant's family. Stant pointed out that his family had no money. Merrill reminded him of the possibility of spending ten years in jail, and Stant caved in.
Merrill admits that his law office contacted Derrick Smith's family, which, if considered improper solicitation, would be a violation of the Arizona Rules of Professional Conduct of the Arizona Supreme Court, but the lawyer claims it happened by accident.
"When the story broke, I was talking to my paralegal [Robert Silvert] and I said, 'I know these people.'" Though Smith's family had always lived in Oregon, Merrill thought he had done business with Derrick's wife, Suzanne. "And unbeknownst to me, [Silvert] contacted Mrs. Smith just to see if there was anything we could do."
"I just asked if they needed legal assistance," Silvert adds. "And shortly thereafter, her sister [Shane's mother] called from Montana, and Shane's gal Leslie called and asked if we could do anything for Shane."
Leslie admits she called, but says that Silvert gave her the legally correct answer that because Leslie was not Shane's wife, they couldn't do anything unless Shane called himself. Merrill had come prepared. "He pulled out this contract," Stant says. "I'd stayed up days. By then I was exhausted." He signed.
Merrill's contract demanded $5,000 up-front to cover out-of-pocket expenses and $50,000 for legal fees. Paragraph seven of the two-page document explained how Stant would pay: "Mr. Stant hereby assigns, with total exclusivity, any or all rights, including but not limited to, film, TV, literary, print, as well as all ancillary rights, both internationally and domestically, to the Law Office of Fredrick D. Merrill until Mr. Merrill has received the $50,000 fee for professional services."
Smith signed a separate but identical contract promising Merrill another $55,000.
Because Merrill is not licensed to practice law in the state of Oregon, where the trial was to take place, he contacted a Portland attorney named Robert Goffredi. "I was minding my own business on a Friday afternoon" when the call came through, Goffredi says. Goffredi showed up for the arraignment an hour later, arranged bail, "made sure the guys shut up--but they'd already spilled their guts."
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