A Duluth firefighter was arraigned Wednesday on two felony counts after allegedly attacking a 65-year-old woman along a western Duluth trail this summer.
Conrad John Sunde IV, 49, of Proctor, made his initial appearance in State District Court in Duluth on aggravated first-degree robbery and third-degree assault charges brought by the St. Louis County Attorney's Office last month.
Sunde is accused of striking the victim with his bicycle and taking her phone during the July 10 altercation on the Duluth Traverse Trail System. Authorities said he later admitted to the attack, which allegedly came after the victim asked Sunde to place his dogs on a leash.
Sunde appeared for the brief hearing by video from the law office of his attorney, Mikkel Long. He spoke only to confirm his name and birth date and waive a timeline for a contested hearing.
Senior Judge Jon Maturi said the defendant could remain free on the condition that he not have any contact with the victim. He scheduled Sunde's next court appearance for Jan. 5.
Sunde, recipient of the 2011 Firefighter of the Year Award from the Kiwanis Club of Friendly Duluth, remains actively employed by the fire department, city spokeswoman Kate Van Daele said Wednesday. Initially cited for misdemeanor assault, he previously served a 30-day unpaid suspension.
According to the criminal complaint:
Police were called to the victim's residence around 8 a.m. after receiving a report of an assault. The victim, Mary Modec, was bleeding from abrasions above her eye and had a number of cuts and scrapes, including to her knees, wrists and hands.
Modec told police she was out on a morning run when she came upon a man biking with three off-leash dogs. She stated that she was startled by one and asked the man to place them on a leash, as required by city ordinance.
Modec reported that the bicyclist responded by insulting her in vulgar terms. She then attempted to retrieve her cellphone from her backpack in order to take a picture of the man and his unleashed dogs.
The man then lifted up his bicycle and charged at Modec, striking her in the chest with the front tire, she said. The victim fell to the ground and the defendant got on top of her, forcefully pushing her head and face into the gravel. Modec reported that there was a struggle for her phone, and the man was eventually able to take possession of the device.
The suspect then left the scene. Modec, after speaking with police, was treated at St. Luke's hospital for a nasal fracture.
Meanwhile, an officer went to the area of the attack and tried calling Modec's phone. He was able to hear it ringing and was able to recover the device approximately 100-150 feet down an embankment.
Police issued a news release that morning, asking for the public's help in identifying the suspect, before Sunde voluntarily arrived at the West Duluth station. He allegedly admitted to an officer that he had knocked Modec down with his bicycle before taking her phone and throwing it into the woods.