MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Prosecutors who’ve charged Minneapolis cop Sgt. David Clifford with first-degree assault want his lawyer to stop speaking publicly about the case.
On Thursday, they filed a motion in an Anoka County courtroom for a gag order in the case.
Clifford went to jail after allegedly punching Brian Vanderlee at Tanner’s Station in Andover. Clifford’s lawyer, Fred Bruno, released surveillance video from that bar.
The release of that video is the main reason for this possible gag order. Anoka County prosecutors want to silence Bruno. They didn’t want that video released. They fear it could taint the jury pool. Both sides believe the case is headed to trial.
The punch was allegedly thrown a month ago. Clifford was off-duty while at the bar. There’s no audio, so we’re not sure why, but about 10 minutes after arriving, Clifford gets up and confronts Vanderlee. Vanderlee stands up, and he’s quickly knocked out. Vanderlee’s friend said that punch was unprovoked.
Vanderlee hit his head on the pavement and cracked his skull. He had two surgeries to address bleeding on his brain. He was also in the hospital on life-support shortly after getting punched.
Thursday in court, Bruno filed a motion to get Vanderlee’s medical records from Mercy Hospital and its parent company, Allina Health.
Bruno released the video initially, saying that it will clear his client. He also claimed that Vanderlee tried to swing at his client.
But prosecutors wants Bruno silenced.
“We want the defendant to have a fair trial, based on evidence the jury hears in court, not in the press,” said Assistant Anoka County Attorney Robert Goodell.
Bruno and his client declined to comment on the prosecution’s motion and quickly left the courthouse.
Clifford is a decorated Minneapolis Police officer, who’s been with the force for nearly 20 years, most recently on the SWAT team.
But after allegedly throwing that punch, he could end up behind-bars.
The judge will rule on these motions in a month.