MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – In a rare move, the lawyer defending a Minneapolis police officer charged with 1st degree assault is releasing the surveillance video he believes will clear his client.
The charge against Sgt. David Clifford was changed on Tuesday from third- to first-degree assault because of the severity of the injuries to Brian Vanderlee.
According to a statement from the Anoka County Attorney’s Office, Vanderlee has undergone two surgeries to address bleeding in his brain.
In surveillance video from Tanner’s Station in Andover, Clifford and Vanderlee can be seen in a confrontation that ends with off-duty officer Clifford punching Vanderlee. Clifford is then seen leaving the scene.
Defense attorney Fred Bruno Wednesday released the video to WCCO-TV. He says the video will clear his client of the charges because he believes the video shows Vanderlee attempting to punch his client.
“It’s incredible. I can’t believe (prosecutors) are watching the same video,” said Bruno.
Both sides of the case believe they are headed to trial.
In his 27 years working for the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office, Commander Paul Sommer says he has never seen a defense attorney release surveillance video in a similar case. The Anoka County Attorney’s Office wouldn’t release the video because it may taint a jury pool if the case makes it to trial.
Sommer has seen the video and says the state has a strong case.
“We believe the case facts and the evidence is clear. Mr. Clifford’s fate lies in the hands of the jury in a court of law,” said Sommer. “Clearly, we don’t think the video will exonerate Mr. Clifford in the least little bit.”
Clifford is schedule to appear Thursday in court for an initial appearance.