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Ex-convict robber disputes claim he attacked Boscawen drug dealer at gunpoint

On this, Richard Grandmont and the state of New Hampshire can agree: Two years ago, on the evening of Jan. 17, Grandmont drove to an apartment complex on King Street in Boscawen to see a man named James Wadleigh. Wadleigh, a drug dealer, and Grandmont, a former bank robber, knew each other; Grandmont had done work on Wadleigh’s car and Wadleigh was temporarily storing one of the then 59-year-old’s tools, a battery charger.

From there, however, each side has a starkly different take on what transpired that night, inside a small second-floor unit that Wadleigh’s girlfriend rented at the time.

According to the state, Grandmont entered the residence unannounced, pointed a handgun at Wadleigh and a friend, John Jordan, and demanded whatever cash and drugs they had on hand. He then struck both men in the head with the butt of his gun, threatened to kill Wadleigh and walked out carrying drugs and a bloody wad of cash.

By Grandmont’s account, which he presented yesterday to a jury in Merrimack County Superior Court – where he faces multiple felony counts, including first-degree assault, criminal threatening, armed robbery and possession of narcotic drugs – none of that is true. Yes, he went to the apartment, he said, but solely to retrieve the battery charger. When he arrived – at Wadleigh’s behest, he said – there was blood on the ground and both men attacked him, possibly as retribution for his girlfriend’s inquiries about the tool.

“They had set me up for a beating,” Grandmont, who is representing himself, told jurors.

Not so, insisted Merrimack County Assistant Prosecutor Joseph Cherniske. “This was not a crime of opportunity,” he said. “This was a planned out, dangerous and desperate act.”

Grandmont was arrested on the night in question by two Boscawen police officers who were called to the complex, at 125 King St., after neighbors complained about a fight possibly involving a gun. By the time they arrived, according to a police affidavit, Grandmont was in the parking lot wearing a camouflage jacket and surgical gloves. His face was bloody and his pants were falling down, one of the officers, Chief Kevin Wyman, testified yesterday.

During a body search, Wyman said he found packets of heroin, cocaine and oxycodone, and roughly $450 stuffed into Grandmont’s pockets. A handgun was later found in the snow near the apartment. Asked about the gloves, Grandmont explained at first that his hands were cold, and later that he is prone to dry skin, Wyman said.

Meanwhile, Wadleigh, despite a throbbing head laceration that would later require five staples to close, made a run for it, Wadleigh testified yesterday. Panicking, he stuffed what drugs he had into a suitcase, hopped out a back window and sprinted off into the woods. A state trooper found him minutes later, dressed in pajama bottoms and little else, and took him into custody.

Wadleigh was later charged with and pleaded guilty to four felony counts of drug possession with intent to distribute. He received probation in exchange for information about another dealer, who is unrelated to Grandmont’s case. He was given immunity from prosecution for his testimony yesterday, in which he echoed Cherniske’s description of the assault.

Jordan was never charged because the drugs were Wadleigh’s, not his.

Grandmont, who cycled through seven different lawyers before opting to defend himself, with occasional guidance from a co-counsel, tried repeatedly to undermine Wadleigh’s credibility, which seemed at times to grate on the latter’s patience. When asked why he thought the handgun might be a Colt .44, instead of a Smith and Wesson, as it turned out to be, Wadleigh let out an exasperated breath.

“I don’t know what it was. I’m not an expert,” he told Grandmont. “I don’t get involved with what happens in your pants.”

“Would you admit you were on drugs and probably drinking that night?” Grandmont later asked. “Yes or no?”

“I wasn’t drinking,” Wadleigh replied.

“Were you on drugs?” Grandmont continued.

“I’m a heroin addict, of course I took heroin,” Wadleigh said.

In addition to his trial this week, which is expected to last five days, Grandmont was indicted earlier this month on a federal count of unlawful possession of a firearm, which states that he was convicted of bank robbery in 1981 and therefore prohibited from carrying a handgun. He was also convicted locally in 1972 on burglary and robbery charges, in 1981 for sale of a controlled drug, and again in 1995 for possession of a controlled drug.

(Jeremy Blackman can be reached at 369-3319, jblackman@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @JBlackmanCM.)

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