Teen connected to Grunwald case pleads guilty in federal court
On the same day the first jury trial began for one of the suspects charged in Palmer teenager David Grunwald's death, another case progressed for a teen who admits to hiding the murder weapons.
In January, Devin Peterson, 19, pleaded guilty to one count of hindering prosecution and one count of tampering with evidence at a change-of-plea hearing in Palmer court.
That plea was part of a deal coordinated with state and federal prosecutors that was completed in federal court Monday, as Peterson pleaded guilty to a federal felony charge of distribution of controlled substances to a minor, for his role in the rape of a minor -- a crime troopers discovered while investigating Grunwald's murder.
According to a sentencing memorandum filed by federal prosecutors, Peterson provided drugs to teenagers at a party in July 2016, then stood by as an adult male at the party raped an intoxicated 15-year-old girl. Troopers found video of the assault on Peterson's phone.
The document alleges Peterson has spent more than half of his life violating the law.
"The defendant’s first known criminal act occurred when he was only 11 years old. Since the age of 15, the defendant has been under near constant supervision as a result of his crimes. As a juvenile, the defendant engaged in multiple serious felonies, including violent crimes such as assault and burglary, as well as drug and property crimes. Of note, much of this conduct occurred while the defendant was under supervision, including the crime for which he has pled guilty. [...] The defendant’s criminal history demonstrates a level of narcissism and a lack of compassion for others that is striking. Since becoming a teenager, the defendant has been engaged in a near constant state of criminal behavior. From a review of his criminal history and social media postings, it seems as if the defendant’s goals in life are to get high on a daily basis, take what he wants, and live a thug life."
Prosecutors describe Peterson's involvement in the cover-up of Grunwald's murder as "the ultimate manifestation of the defendant's life goals."
Peterson has admitted he provided two gas cans to suspects Eric Almandinger and Dominic Johnson and told them to “burn that b---h,” referring to Grunwald’s Ford Bronco.
He then had contact with law enforcement three times during the 19-day search for Grunwald -- in one instance even reporting to troopers that property had been stolen from him -- but failed to contribute the information he had about the teen's whereabouts to the investigation.
Monday, Peterson's defense attorney said Peterson is remorseful for his actions and proud of the fact that he's earned a GED since his arrest, adding, "It's difficult for him to receive the scrutiny he's received," due to the cases he's involved in.
Senior United States District Judge Ralph Beistline told Peterson he'd looked up the definition of a psychopath in advance of the hearing and questioned his ability to ever care about anyone other than himself.
"It's hard for us to understand how one human being can treat another human being as you and your murderous friends did," said Beistline.
After some prodding, with Beistline asking Peterson why he should believe Peterson is remorseful, Peterson said he understands he was wrong, wishes he could go back, and apologized to Edie Grunwald, David Grunwald's mother, saying he'd thought well of David and when he learned about what happened, he said, "Why of all people? Why him?"
"I'm glad that he did that," Edie said of the apology, "Like the judge said, whether he means it or not, they're words and he said it on the record and he didn't have to do that, so I at least appreciate that."
The deal between the state, the feds and Peterson gives him a combined nine years to serve, with six in the state's custody and three in federal prison. With credit for time already served, federal good time credits, and his eligibility for parole, Peterson is expected to be released in June of 2023.
Beistline told Peterson he's getting a second chance, something Grunwald will never have, but it's also Peterson's last chance. He said based on Peterson's record, if he messes up again, he'll be facing a much greater punishment range.
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