Nelson, a former Minnesota Mr. Football and Gophers starting quarterback, has understandably taken a lot of criticism for literally (though allegedly) kicking Kolstand while he was down on a downtown Mankato street. But reached for comment today, Twin Cities attorney and legal expert Ron Rosenbaum tells us he thinks Nelson and Shelley have stronger cases than people might think.
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"There's at least one police report which from what I've seen has been un-contradicted that says Kolstad threw the first shot at Nelson from behind," Rosenbaum says. "He gets hit hard enough to knock him down and maybe even knock some other people over in the process, and he's not a small guy. He could be down and dazed, there may be people around him, it's dark, he [gets up and] sees the guy on the ground but doesn't know arguably that the threat is gone and he takes a measure of retaliation to stop the threat."
"What [Nelson] may or may not have known was that once he was knocked down a guy comes out of nowhere and lands a vicious blow on Kolstad to the head," Rosenbaum continues. "Nelson, arguably from his standpoint, would have no way of knowing the extent of the damage that the blow caused, so arguably would think there was still a threat."
Rosenbaum says a similar line of legal logic could be used to mount a defense for Shelley.
"Remember that Shelley has the right to self-defense against himself and against others," he says. "The argument for Shelley would be he sees a guy strike Nelson, who he may or may not know, hard enough to knock a big guy like him down, and he comes to his defense using the exact same level of force against Kolstad that Kolstad used against Nelson -- to wit, a punch. Arguably he's got a colorable self-defense claim in that he's defending somebody else."
"The right of self-defense is based on what a reasonable person would do under similar circumstances," Rosenbaum continues. "The way it's been reported, it looks like it's an open-and-shut case, and I believe that once facts are developed, I wouldn't be surprised if the case doesn't look a little different."
It also doesn't hurt that Nelson, at least, has an accomplished attorney representing him -- Jim Fleming, the same guy who represented recently reinstated MSU-Mankato football coach Todd Hoffner during his child porn charges ordeal.
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