Bail was set at $15,000 Tuesday morning for Minneapolis Police Sgt. David Clifford, the man accused of sucker-punching a Ramsey man for talking loud on his cell phone on a bar patio.
Sgt. Clifford appeared in Anoka County court Tuesday morning before Judge Tammi Fredrickson. Bail was set with the condition he must not consume alcohol, must submit to on-demand alcohol screenings and make no contact with the victim.
Defense attorney Brooke Bass said Clifford only had half of a mixed drink before the alleged assault.
Prosecutors asked for $25,000 bail, citing concerns Clifford would be a flight risk. Judge Fredrickson noted Clifford has strong ties to the community, but was concerned about the seriousness of the allegations against him.
In making her case to Judge Fredrickson for a conditional release, Bass noted Clifford's service as a Minneapolis SWAT team leader and refered to the presence of a number of off-duty ununiformed officers in the courtroom on his behalf. A half dozen of those men escorted him out of jail to the Goldberg Bail Bonds office accross the street.
Clifford was charged Monday with third-degree assault for the alleged attack on Star Tribune sales rep Brian Vander Lee, who remains on life support after two brain surgeries.
Vander Lee was on the patio at Tanner's Station in Andover around 7 p.m. Saturday night when Sgt. David Clifford, at another table with his wife, asked him to be quiet. Vander Lee's wife and friend say Clifford blindsided him with a "Superman" punch, bouncing his head off the concrete.
Clifford told police he took offense to some language Vander Lee was using, and asked him to stop. He said he thought Vander Lee was going to hit him, and that's when he threw a punch.
According to Minneapolis police spokesman Sgt. Bill Palmer, Clifford has been a Minneapolis police officer since 1993. In that time he has not had a single sustained disciplinary action against him.
But FOX 9 also learned Sgt. Clifford was part of an excessive force lawsuit stemming from an arrest in April of 1995. Clifford and the city won the lawsuit, but lost an appeal, eventually settling with the victim for $55,000.
Sgt. Clifford's next court appearance is set for July 19 at 1 p.m.
STATEMENT FROM POLICE CHIEF TIMOTHY DOLAN
"I pray for Mr. Brian Vander Lee and his family. Since we were made aware of this incident, the Minneapolis Police Department has actively assisted Anoka County with the criminal investigation. We also immediately initiated an internal investigation. The Minneapolis Police Department does not wait until a criminal prosecution has been completed to make internal findings and take disciplinary action."
A benefit fund has been created to help the family of Brian Vander Lee with medical bills:
BRIAN VANDER LEE BENEFIT
DONATIONS ACCEPTED AT ANY TCF BANK LOCATION