David Clifford's motion to dismiss charges denied; will stand trial for near-fatal punch

David Clifford's punch led to multiple brain surgeries for Brian Vander Lee.
David Clifford's punch led to multiple brain surgeries for Brian Vander Lee.

This spring, Minneapolis SWAT team executive officer David Clifford will stand trial for nearly killing a bar patron with a single punch to the head last summer.

Anoka County District Judge Lawrence Johnson denied Clifford's motion to have the first- and third-degree assault charges he faces dropped.

-- David Clifford's one-punch near-homicide: The surveillance footage [VIDEO]
-- Brian Vander Lee, victim of David Clifford's one-punch near-homicide, is home, in bad shape

"Let me lay to rest any hope you have to dismiss the case... that is not going to happen," Johnson told Clifford and attorney Fred Bruno during a hearing yesterday, according to the Pioneer Press.

Bruno filed a dismissal-of-charges motion late last month. In it, he argues an investigator tried to manipulate two witnesses who were with Clifford at Tanner's Station in Andover on June 16 when he punched Vander Lee into giving statements favorable to the prosecution. Bruno said the investigator pressed the two on alleged inconsistencies between their version of events and what the surveillance video shows, even though the security footage was consistent with their accounts.

But the investigator's alleged misconduct isn't sufficient to dismiss charges, Judge Johnson ruled.

Clifford's trial is set to begin in April, the PiPress reports. In the meantime, he remains on administrative leave from the MPD.

The first-degree assault charge alone could land Clifford in prison for 20 years. Here's how statute defines "Assault in the First Degree": "Whoever assaults another and inflicts great bodily harm may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than 20 years or to payment of a fine of not more than $30,000, or both."

Bruno's court filings and on-the-record statements suggest he'll argue Clifford was simply defending himself when he blasted Vander Lee. In court yesterday, Bruno said: "When you slow down [the video tape]... you can see [Vander Lee]... is on his feet... and in the process of throwing a left hook," the PiPress reports.

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