A Duluth firefighter will ask a judge to dismiss a felony aggravated robbery charge stemming from the alleged assault of a woman along a western Duluth trail last summer.
Conrad John Sunde IV, 49, of Proctor, made his second appearance in State District Court in Duluth on Tuesday. The longtime member of the Duluth Fire Department is accused of striking a 65-year-old woman with his bicycle and taking her phone during a July confrontation involving his unleashed dogs on the Duluth Traverse Trail System.
Defense attorney Mikkel Long said he has received discovery and would not be raising any constitutional issues related to the collection of evidence. But he indicated he does not believe there is sufficient probable cause to support the first-degree robbery charge.
Long said he would not raise any pretrial challenges to his client's other felony charge of third-degree assault. A not-guilty plea was entered on Sunde's behalf.
According to a criminal complaint, Duluth police were called to the victim's home around 8 a.m. July 10. 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.
The bicyclist responded by insulting Modec in vulgar terms, the complaint states. The victim 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 complaint states that 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, according to the complaint.
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.
Sunde, recipient of the 2011 Firefighter of the Year Award from the Kiwanis Club of Friendly Duluth, initially was cited for misdemeanor assault and served a 30-day unpaid suspension from the city. He has since returned to duty as the felony charges remain pending.
Aggravated first-degree robbery carries a statutory maximum of 20 years in prison. An offender with no criminal history is expected to serve approximately four years under state sentencing guidelines.
A conviction on the third-degree assault charge would carry a presumptive probationary sentence.
Judge Theresa Neo ordered written briefs to be submitted on Sunde's bid to dismiss the robbery charge. She said she hopes to issue a ruling ahead of a March 5 settlement conference.