A prosecution expert said former University of Minnesota quarterback Philip Nelson had little, if anything, to do with the nearly fatal injuries suffered by Mankato resident Isaac Kolstad in a May 11 fight that involved both men.
Pathologist Michael B. McGee said it was his “overall impression” that Kolstad’s injuries were mainly and perhaps entirely due to being punched in the head by a third man and the smack of his head on pavement when he fell, not Nelson’s kick.
The finding gave renewed urgency Friday to calls from Nelson’s attorney for dismissal of felony charges against his client.
“I’m hoping there’s a decision soon and this gets resolved,” said attorney Jim Fleming. “We’re done.”
In the report, McGee said he reviewed 16 computer disks of medical images from the case, including CT scans and X-rays along with medical records and investigative material. McGee is the Ramsey County medical examiner who also serves under contract with Blue Earth County.
“Based on the medical records and information available, I am not able to differentiate the causation of these [Kolstad’s] injuries,” he wrote. “My overall impression of this case is that the majority and possibly all of the injuries described in Mr. Kolstad are related to the initial punch and subsequent fall to the street surface.”
According to witness statements released last month, an angered Nelson shoved Kolstad, a 2013 graduate of Minnesota State, Mankato and a former football player for the school, after mistaking him for a bouncer who had kissed his girlfriend. Nelson and Kolstad, who were 20 and 24 years old at the time of the fight, were both intoxicated, police said.
Kolstad knocked Nelson to the ground, but as he walked away, a third man, Trevor Shelley, punched Kolstad in the head. Surveillance video shows Kolstad dropping to the ground, his head smacking the pavement. Nelson then kicked Kolstad in the head. The fight lasted seconds.
Both Nelson and Shelley have been charged with first- and third-degree assault. Nelson also was kicked off the Rutgers football team, to which he had transferred.
“Philip has just been in nowheresville waiting for this to be resolved,” Fleming said Friday.
Shelley’s attorney, public defender Richard Hillesheim, said he also has been awaiting McGee’s report. “There is still going to be a question of who caused what injuries,” he said.
A medical doctor called as a defense expert concluded in August that Shelley’s punch caused much of Kolstad’s injury.
The Mankato neurosurgeon who treated Kolstad said in October that Kolstad’s injuries were caused by a combination of blows to the head and a lack of oxygen from choking on his own vomit; Dr. Dominic Cannella could not say who was more or less responsible for Kolstad’s injuries, according to court testimony.
Blue Earth County prosecutor Pat McDermott asked McGee to also review the medical records, and McGee’s report was delivered sometime after Nov. 24, according to McDermott.
It was sent to Nelson’s defense attorney Jan. 2. Fleming filed it with the court Thursday, and McDermott did so Friday.
McDermott said he hasn’t made any decisions yet about Nelson’s charges.
“I’m not ruling anything out at this point in time,” he said.