Duluth firefighter likely to lose job after sentencing for off-duty assault of 65-year-old woman

Conrad John Sunde IV, who had spent the previous two years defending a felony assault accusation, was repentant when he showed up for sentence on Monday.

The city’s previous Firefighter of the Year, who is expected to lose his job after assaulting a 65-year-old lady along a western Duluth path in 2020, did not get any forgiveness after a last-minute apology.

Victim Mary Modec said in court, “I went through two years of agony due of this person, and it continues to go on.

Sunde, 51, of Proctor was sentenced by Judge Theresa Neo to three years of supervised probation, which is the standard punishment for first-time offenders found guilty of felony third-degree assault.

Neo, however, rejected to grant the defense’s plea for a more favorable verdict, which may have allowed the defendant to go on with his chosen field of employment.

The court told Sunde, “You may possibly be compelled because of this to find something else to do, and that may be precisely what you need.”

On July 10, 2020, Modec questioned Sunde over his off-leash dogs on the Duluth Traverse Trail System. Modec said that after a verbal argument, Sunde ultimately hit her with his mountain bike, knocking her to the ground, before he fled the scene, pressing her face into the gravel and throwing her phone into the bushes.

In the event, Modec sustained several wounds, scratches, bruises, a fractured nose, a deviated septum, and other injuries. Without any way to dial 911, she was forced to go home and ask a neighbor for assistance.

At trial, Sunde said that he acted in self-defense out of fear that Modec might use a pepper spray canister around her neck to harm him or his dogs. He denied pushing her face into the ground and instead claimed that he attempted to place the bike between them.

After Sunde forfeited his right to a jury, Neo, the lone fact-finder, called his defense “patently ludicrous.” In a judgement from June, the court said that Modec’s story was more plausible and that Sunde was the “aggressor” who should have fled the area without using force.

On Monday, Sunde said that Modec’s evidence and his probation officer presentence examination revealed “problems I didn’t comprehend.” He apologized without going into detail and promised to do better going forward.

He said, “I let her down. “I failed the neighborhood. I failed myself. I disappointed everyone. I apologize especially for it.

In order for the felony to be reduced to a misdemeanor following successful completion of probation, defense lawyer Mikkel Long requested a stay of imposition.

Long informed the court that despite not having a criminal conviction, “He may have a chance to continue work.” “That might decide the matter for him,” someone said.

When Sunde attacked him, Modec objected, saying, “There was no stay of (imposition).”

The woman, who is still having respiratory problems and could need surgery, said that the legal system has allowed her to slip between the gaps. She is left paying for her own treatment while Sunde has carried on with his regular activities since she is unable to access the services that would be offered to others, such as survivors of domestic violence.

Modec said before the court, “I see a fire engine and I want to vomit.” “I believe that keeping him on would be a grave error for the city. It’s improper.

Nate Stumme, the prosecutor for St. Louis County, said that “it is suitable to most anybody in Mr. Sunde’s condition” and neither recommended nor objected to the motion for a stay of imposition. However, he said that since the victim “had been harmed so deeply,” the case stands out among the many he has prosecuted.

Judge Neo concurred, stating that Sunde’s actions had a negative impact on the feeling of security for the many walkers, runners, and cyclists who take use of the city’s vast trail networks.

She ultimately had a fractured nose, Neo added. “She became by herself. She was left without someone to assist her.

Whether or whether Sunde was aware that anything was amiss the day of the assault, Sunde clearly lacked “balance,” according to Neo. She suggested that a change could be beneficial for him after decades of duty in the Duluth Fire Department and U.S. Marine Corps.

Neo responded, “You’re not a horrible guy. “You performed poorly.”

Neo rejected the request for a stay of the imposition and issued a list of requirements for Sunde to follow, including being evaluated for possible admission to the South St. Louis County Veterans Treatment Court, finishing anger management classes, performing 100 hours of community service, and paying about $300 in restitution. If he continues to comply for three years, a 366-day jail term will not be imposed on him.

Sunde’s future work status might be decided in the next weeks or months. Sunde is still a working fireman today after serving a 30-day unpaid suspension in the immediate aftermath of the event.

The National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians, the Minnesota Board of Firefighter Training and Education, and the Minnesota Emergency Medical Services Board are the regulating bodies that the city is deferring to.

In a statement released on Monday, Noah Schuchman, the chief administrative officer of Duluth, stated, “These organizations alerted us that they are investigating this. “The City of Duluth has no influence over the timetable or outcome of such investigations, and we would direct future questions to them on this topic.”

The meeting of the review committee that was supposed to assess Sunde’s license earlier this month has been moved until October, according to Zach Kayser, a spokeswoman for the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.

The Duluth News Tribune quoted Kayser as saying, “We’ve been working very cautiously in this matter because we know it will create a precedent for how licensing problems are handled in the future. “It’s uncommon for a license to be challenged because of a criminal problem in the first place, and often those are settled after the license expires while the individual is jailed,”

According to Kayser, the organization and the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office have been collaborating closely. An inquiry for comment was not immediately answered by a spokesperson there.

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