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For Mankato Mayor John Brady, being caught after striking two cars on I-394 while so drunk that cops thought he was speaking a foreign language was a blessing.
"I look at this as an opportunity, in many ways a gift, to get my addiction under control," Brady told Hennepin County District Judge Denise Reilly as he pleaded guilty Wednesday to drunken driving. "I believe that will be the case."
In keeping with a plea agreement between the defense and prosecutors, Reilly sentenced Brady, 61, to perform three days of community service in the city where he's served as mayor for four years.
Reilly stayed a 60-day county workhouse sentence provided Brady does the community service and meets other conditions, including maintaining a clean driving record. He'd already met another common probation condition by participating in a DWI clinic and had already had a chemical dependency evaluation and sought treatment.
As his wife, Patricia Earle, looked on, Brady also admitted driving with an open vodka bottle, for which Reilly fined him $100.
Police responding to a hit-and-run call at 1 p.m. on Aug. 26 came upon Brady drifting between lanes on I-394 at the Hopkins Crossroad in Golden Valley. He didn't stop for emergency lights and then struck a vehicle while exiting before police got him stopped.
A preliminary breath test registered a blood alcohol content of 0.24 percent, three times the legal limit. A final test registered 0.12.
Brady was on his way to the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport for a trip to China as part of a delegation to establish a partnership between a region in China and Minnesota State University, Mankato's Department of Aviation. He was nervous about the trip, so he got drunk, said his attorney, Calvin Johnson, after Wednesday's sentencing.
"I think it was a very intimidating situation for him," Johnson said. "It was out of anyone's comfort zone. It's difficult to explain."
Johnson also cited a pair of fairly recent tragedies that he said may have aggravated his client's alcoholism:
Brady's stepdaughter, Hilary Kruger, lost her husband, Tracy Kruger, and their son, Alec Kruger, 13, the night in February 2007 that Michael Zabawa broke into their rural farmhouse south of Waseca and fired on them with a 12-gauge shotgun. Zabawa is serving a life sentence. Then, Brady's son, Tracy Brady, died last year at 37. Johnson said alcoholism led to the death, though he didn't know specifics.
Brenda Thomas, interim executive director for Minnesota Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), said the organization was disappointed that Brady wasn't a more positive role model, especially given the problems his town's university has had related to drinking, including alcohol-related deaths. Still, Thomas said, her organization reaches out not only to victims, but to those who struggle with alcohol.
"We just want to help," she said. "And we hope that with the decisions he made, he'll make better ones in the future, and we won't have to deal with any of this."
After his high-profile arrest, Brady resisted calls to resign. He said voters would decide in November whether he should stay in office. Johnson said Brady was on the Mankato City Council for 10 years before being elected mayor and is a registered nurse and chiropractor.
After accepting his plea, Judge Reilly told Brady that she sees plenty of first-time DWI offenders.
"Most don't come back because they're humiliated, embarrassed and realize just how dangerous their behavior was," she said. "I believe you're taking the steps to ensure we never see you again."
In a statement after the hearing, Brady thanked the community for its support and referred to the treatment he's getting.
"It's a new beginning," he said.
Abby Simons • 612-673-4921