One punch and six years of jail? Minnesota court rejects appeal

What many in Minnesota may consider to be an excessive punishment for a simple punch has recently been upheld on appeal. A 50-year-old Minneapolis man will spend the remainder of his 72-month, or six-year, sentence behind bars for punching a referee.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals turned down the man when he asked for probation instead of spending six years in prison for assault. Although the man chose to plead guilty to the first-degree felony assault charge in June 2010, he may have done so thinking he would not receive much, if any, prison time. And, based off of the facts surrounding the single punch, it is hard to imagine why the man received such a severe sentence.

The man was arrested when he lost his temper during a basketball game and punched a referee at the Burnsville Athletic Club. While assault can be a serious offense, the judge who originally sentenced him admitted that punching a referee once “could not fairly be considered on the same category as if [he] had used a gun or a bat or beaten somebody senseless.” Imagine the man’s surprise when the judge still sentenced him to six years in prison.

The man’s legal team appealed the decision and asked for probation instead of prison time. The appellate court made it quite clear that the man would spend his entire sentence in prison because he was lucky enough to get a reduced sentence rather than the presumptive 110 months.

This man chose to plead guilty to assault, but any guilty plea must be carefully considered. Only by speaking with an attorney can a suspect really understand what the consequences would be of pleading to a charge, even a wildly harsh six-year sentence for one punch.

Source: Burnsville Patch, “Judge Upholds 6-Year Sentence in Basketball Brawl,” Clare Kennedy, Dec. 28, 2011

He has won jury trial cases in misdemeanor and felony cases and in DWI’s and non-DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. He is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

What to Do If You Have Been Charged with a Criminal Offense

Involve a criminal appeal attorney soon after you learn the prosecution is appealing your sentence. Your attorney will walk you through the involving and confusing sentencing guidelines. An attorney's involvement will also help you develop a defense strategy for the appeal.