ANOKA COUNTY, Minn. (WCCO) — Former Minneapolis Police Sgt. David Clifford was sentenced Thursday in Anoka County court to nearly 2 1/2 years in prison for punching Brian Vander Lee at an Andover bar in June 2012. He’ll serve a year of supervised release, too.
Clifford was charged with first-degree assault for his single punch that left Vander Lee hitting his head on the concrete, and suffering a severe brain injury.
Sentence guidelines called for 86 months, but Anoka County District Court Judge Lawrence Johnson said, “I do believe he is remorseful for what he did … the assault itself, a single punch, is not the typical behavior you see for first-degree assaults.”
Vander Lee’s wife, Courtney, said her husband isn’t the same one emotionally after the injury that needed three brain surgeries to repair the damage, explaining he exhibits serious mood swings and suffers from blurred vision.
Though Vander Lee didn’t speak in court, he had a statement read.
“I’ve become somewhat of a hermit,” it said. “I don’t want to go out in public. I can’t handle people or crowds.”
Vander Lee also urged the judge to give Clifford, “as much leniency and compassion as he showed me.”
When Clifford spoke, he choked back tears as he apologized to the Vander Lee family, his own family, to the Minneapolis police department and the general public.
“I’m so sorry for my misguided actions and the crime I committed,” he said.