Abuse case against Superior attorney Gondik dismissed againThe abuse case against a prominent Twin Ports defense attorney gets hung up again on improper procedures, while the Polk County district attorney vows to refile the charges.
By: Mark Stodghill, Duluth News Tribune
HAYWARD — After numerous court appearances, telephone conferences and court filings, the criminal case charging a prominent Twin Ports defense attorney with abusing his 14-year-old son is starting all over again.
A Sawyer County judge on Thursday for a second time in four months dismissed a felony charge of physical abuse of a child and a charge of disorderly conduct that had been brought against Superior lawyer Richard Gondik.
“If they’re going to hang Rick Gondik, they can’t expect me to stand under a low-hanging branch, provide the rope from my hand, and expect me to slap the horse in the [rear],” Gondik said outside the courtroom after the hearing.
Judge Gerald Wright granted the request of Balsam Lake, Wis., defense attorney Mark Biller that the charges be dismissed because the criminal complaint had not been reviewed by a judge to determine whether there was probable cause. He also ruled that, upon review, he acted without proper jurisdiction when he allowed the special prosecutor to refile charges after he first dismissed the charges in December.
Polk County District Attorney Daniel Steffen said he will refile charges against Gondik within a week in Douglas County Circuit Court.
“It’s definitely frustrating,” Steffen said after the hearing. “There’s going to come a time when we’re going to get this thing moving. We’re going to recommence this action and Mr. Gondik will get his day in court. … Unfortunately, I think it’s an example of why lawyers have a bad name.”
Gondik, 48, is the father of four children. He told the News Tribune that the incident with his two teenage sons escalated after the boys didn’t do the spring cleaning he had asked them to do around their Foxboro home. He locked them out of the house and told them they could come back in when the job was done.
He said the boys became angry and verbally abusive. One boy beat on the door with a spade and the other with a baseball bat, Gondik said. He said the 14-year-old was accidently injured when he fell after Gondik took the bat away from him.
In the criminal complaint, Gondik is said to have hit or pushed the boy with the bat.
Gondik on Thursday suggested that his success as a 22-year criminal defense attorney has led to an overzealous prosecution.
Last year, he successfully defended at trial a former Duluth physician who was accused of sexually assaulting a patient.
“When you’re on top of the mountain, there are those that will try to knock you off,” Gondik said. “I believe, without sounding like an egomaniac or bragging, that if it wasn’t who I was, this case would never have been brought.”
It’s been 362 days since the alleged crimes occurred last April.
Gondik says he’s innocent of the charges, but he has yet to enter a formal plea in court because he hasn’t had to.
In addition to all of the defense challenges, the case has bogged down for several other reasons.
The alleged crimes were committed in Douglas County. Because Gondik practices law in the Twin Ports, Douglas County District Attorney Dan Blank asked Steffen to serve as special prosecutor to avoid any appearance of impropriety. The Douglas County judges recused themselves from the case because Gondik practices law before them.
The defense then removed an Ashland County judge from hearing the case and it wound up before Wright in Sawyer County. However, the court file remained in Superior and Wright has been working from what he called on Thursday a “courtesy” file, which has not contained all of the documents filed in the case.
Gondik said he and the two sons involved in the incident and the rest of his family are getting along swimmingly. He took all four of his children and his ex-wife to Disney World for a week last month.
“We had a heck of a good time,” Gondik said.
Steffen had no quarrel with Wright dismissing the case again.
“I think all of us want to make sure that once this is done and this case is resolved, either at a trial, or beforehand, there aren’t any appellate issues lying out there unresolved,” Steffen said.