A Hennepin County district judge has ordered a probation officer to conduct an investigation before a potential plea by a student accused of savagely beating a Minneapolis Public Schools staff member.
Corey David Burfield, 18, of St. Paul, faces one count of first-degree assault and one count of third-degree assault in connection with a May 22 attack that left Mohammed Dukuly,, a paraprofessional at Harrison Education Center, in critical condition and on life support.
At a brief court hearing on Monday, Judge William Koch granted a request by Burfield’s attorney for the report to gather information about Burfield’s life history and his alleged attack against Dukuly. Koch urged Burfield to be candid during the process, stressing that the report will only be released to lead attorneys and him, not to the public.
“It’s important that you be honest and that you answer the questions that are asked of you,” Koch told Burfield. “To encourage you to be honest, I want you to know that no decision has been made as to what’s going to happen to your case even after the pre-plea investigation.”
The report coupled with a surveillance video of the attack, Koch said, would be used to help the court determine Burfield’s sentencing.
Surveillance video showed Burfield grabbing Dukuly’s belt where keys to the building were attached, according to a criminal complaint. Dukuly tried to push Burfield away and Burfield grabbed him by the shirt, shoved him into a wall and then to the ground, punching Dukuly numerous times on the head and neck with a closed fist, the complaint said.
Dukuly, 44, suffered head injuries and was “unconscious but breathing” when emergency responders arrived at the school in the 500 block of Irving Avenue N., according to 911 dispatch audio.
In speaking with officers, Burfield said Dukuly “took a swing” at him and he was only defending himself, the complaint said.
“It’s a close case of self-defense, honestly,” Burfield’s attorney, Douglas Myren, said Monday in a phone interview.
At Monday’s hearing, Burfield did not address the court.
Harrison is an alternative high school for teens with severe emotional and behavioral disorders.
Myren, who requested the probe, said the process would give the judge a complete picture of his client’s case.
“We’re hopeful that once the judge takes a look at all the facts of the case, maybe they will decide that a probationary disposition is more advisable than a prison sentence,” Myren said.
Asked whether his client was planning to plead guilty, he said: “It’s a little too early to say, but it’s entirely possible.”
Nadia Elnagdy, prosecuting attorney for the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, posed an offer for Burfield to plead guilty to one count of first-degree assault, noting the third-degree assault charge would then be dismissed. She said based on Burfield’s vulnerability, the state would argue for an 86-month sentence and not pursue the maximum sentence required by law of 240 months.
The family of Dukuly trickled in after the hearing. Dukuly, they said, is now strapped to a neck brace and is seeing a physical therapist. If therapy is unsuccessful, Dukuly may undergo surgery, his family said.
“We all want to see what’s going to happen with this case,” said Mohamed Dorley, a relative.
After the pre-plea investigation is completed, Burfield is scheduled to return to court on Aug. 27.
“It’s possible that at that next court appearance we would enter a plea at that time,” Myren said.