MANKATO, Minn. (WCCO) — Former University of Minnesota football player Philip Nelson will not serve any jail time following a fight outside a Mankato bar last May.
Nelson heard his sentence before a packed courtroom in Blue Earth County Monday. As part of a plea deal, he pleaded guilty to fifth-degree assault in exchange for dropping two felony assault charges for his role in the fight that severely injured Isaac Kolstad. The former Mankato football player suffered brain damage, spent five months in the hospital and is still recovering with rehabilitation and outpatient programs.
Judge Bradley Walker sentenced Nelson to two days of jail with credit for time served. Nelson will have to complete 100 hours of community service and there won’t be any probation, which is common for a misdemeanor.
Before the sentencing hearing, Isaac Kolstad arrived to court surrounded by family. The progress made during his recovery was obvious as he walked with his wife, Molly. Monday’s sentencing for Nelson was meant to be one more step in the healing process.
“The family is extremely disappointed,” Ken White, the Kolstad family attorney, said. “Mr. Nelson’s behavior was not that of a misdemeanor fight.”
The Kolstad family wanted Nelson to serve the maximum jail time of 90 days. During their impact statements Isaac and Molly described how their lives will never be the same.
“I can’t hold my own children without someone watching me,” Isaac Kolstad said.
“Mr. Nelson should have the opportunity to reflect on his wrong doings and the effect he has made on our lives,” Molly Kolstad said.
It was Kolstad’s mom, Teresa, who had the harshest words. She told Nelson, “The mere thought of your cowardice act sickens me.”
During the sentencing hearing, Nelson’s attorney, Jim Fleming, emphasized a medical expert’s findings that Nelson’s kick didn’t cause the injury. Instead, the medical expert found that Trevor Shelley’s punch and the fall it caused, resulted in the head injury. Fleming also noted Nelson has remorseful and has no past criminal history.
“I think the sentence reflected what other first-time offenders for the events like this get. Yes, it was fair,” Fleming said.
Nelson told the court he was sorry. He also said he didn’t remember kicking Kolstad and he takes full responsibility for his actions. He was not put on probation.
“Not a day goes by that I don’t think about what has happened,” Nelson said.
Kolstad’s family hasn’t ruled out a civil suit against Nelson.
Trevor Shelley is accused of throwing the punch that caused Kolstad’s initial injuries and is facing two felony assault charges. His case is still moving through the system with another court date set for early next month.