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Lawyer wants assault charges against Minneapolis cop dismissed

  • Article by: PAUL LEVY
  • Star Tribune
  • December 1, 2012 - 9:35 AM

Assault charges against Minneapolis SWAT team leader David Clifford should be dismissed because a detective attempted to induce witnesses to change statements, according to motions filed Friday by Clifford's lawyer.

Attorney Fred Bruno will formally ask Anoka County District Judge Lawrence Johnson on Wednesday to dismiss first-degree assault charges stemming from the punch allegedly thrown by Clifford in a Andover bar June 16 that led to three brain surgeries for victim Brian Vander Lee.

In court documents, Bruno has charged Anoka County detective Thomas Strusinski with making false statements, misrepresentations, using improper investigative techniques and harassment. Bruno has argued that Clifford, 48, was reacting in self-defense, that Vander Lee took the first swing.

A surveillance video showed Vander Lee sitting at a patio table at Tanners Station bar when Clifford, seated at the next table, approached him. According to court documents, Clifford said Vander Lee was using offensive language. After a verbal confrontation, Clifford struck Vander Lee in the mouth with his right fist.

Vander Lee fell backward, hitting his head on the pavement. Clifford fled.

Vander Lee works in advertising at the Star Tribune.

Paul Levy • 612-673-4419

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