A Utah attorney who made his name representing white-collar criminals and anti-federal government protesters died Sunday.
Marcus Mumford was 46 years old. His father, Ronald, said Monday that it was an unexpected death, possibly due to an illness.
"We were told it was a peaceful death," the father said. "We don't know the details."
Mumford’s sister-in-law, Katie Mumford, told The Oregonian that a colleague and friend had stopped at his Salt Lake City home Monday to bring him breakfast and discuss a case and found him dead. He wasn’t ill with the coronavirus, and his sister-in-law told the Oregon newspaper that they don’t suspect foul play.
Mumford was known for his zealous defense of several high-profile fraudsters, including Rick Koerber, a Utah real estate investor who was sentenced to 14 years in federal prison for running a Ponzi scheme. Mumford represented Koerber at his first trial, which ended in a hung jury.
One of his biggest legal victories was his representation of Ammon Bundy, who was acquitted of federal charges in 2016 associated with the armed takeover of a federally-owned wildlife sanctuary in Oregon. After netting a not-guilty verdict, Mumford was tackled by federal marshals and stunned with a Taser after he argued with the judge about whether his client could be released or needed to be transferred to Nevada to face charges there.
He was arrested and later charged in that incident, but the case was dropped. He eventually agreed in 2018 to stop working as an attorney in Oregon.
Amanda Mendenhall, an attorney who worked with Mumford on these high-profile cases, remembered him on Tuesday as someone who truly believed in his clients — and sacrificed his time and personal life working on their cases, sometimes for free.
“His spirit and tenacity is one of the things he is known for and also misunderstood for,” she said. “We did win some big cases that we weren’t supposed to. You’re not supposed to beat the government as much as he beat the government.”
Mumford wore cowboy boots to court, Mendenhall said, and was notorious for filing legal paperwork late — sometimes by only just a minute or two.
He had a pronounced stutter, and Mendenhall said he was often late on his court filings because he was pouring over every written word to make sure it was perfect.
“His written product was the only chance he had to communicate [his message] correctly the first time,” she said. “With a stutter, you’re always having a hard time getting your message across. In your written work, it comes out perfect. He would worry about one or two little words and he would obsess about his writing.”
Mumford once slipped and fell outside the courthouse in 2015, Mendenhall recalled, after they were more than a week into the trial for Marc Sessions Jenson, a Utah businessman who had been accused of fraud and money laundering.
Mumford broke his foot, Mendenhall said, but kept going — ”swaggering” on it for two weeks in front of the jury before netting an acquittal and finally seeing a doctor. He ended up needing surgery.
“He was very thorough and very, very good,” she said. “He may have been unconventional, but that’s what made him great.”
Mumford was divorced, and was the father of seven children. His father told The Salt Lake Tribune that Mumford had struggled in recent weeks — but declined to detail further — and thanked those who had supported his son through a difficult time.
“We’re just heartbroken about his passing and about this loss,” his father said. "Those friends who reached out, who were helping him, made a difference... We’re appreciative of everyone who has in any way supported or been a part of Marcus’ life.”
Court records show that Mumford had filed an appeal two weeks ago challenging a misdemeanor criminal trespassing charge from June 2019. Court records note that it was a domestic violence-related offense, but the allegations were not detailed in court documents.
Mumford had also been appealing a 120-day suspension of his law license after a judge found that he misrepresented information and was late in several legal filings.
The Utah attorney in 2010 told students at his alma mater, Utah State University, that he faced many difficulties as a young college student because of his stutter, and told them he had to be “audacious enough” to jump into the legal world, “even though the world wasn’t prepared for a stuttering lawyer.”
Mumford later graduated from Brigham Young University’s law school. He worked for eight years at one of the country’s biggest law firms, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom in New York City, before returning to Utah and opening his own law firm.