Strand Comments Following Not Guilty Verdict
Carol McCarthy | Jan 28, 2019 AT 12:09 pm
DETROIT LAKES, MN--"A relief...a
weight lifted"...words from Robert Strand describing the feeling Friday as
he was found "not guilty" of disorderly conduct by a Becker County
jury. (click here for Strand's comment)
who is a Sergeant with the Detroit Lakes Police Department and has been on paid administrative leave since December 28th, 2017 is finally cleared
of a misdemeanor charge after a three-day jury trial last week.
The charge stemmed from an incident just after midnight, December 24th, 2017 at the Hub 41 bar in Detroit Lakes involving 41 year old Strand, who was off-duty, and 36 year old Blake Sundvor. The two men have a history that dates back to 2007 when Officer Strand was involved in a criminal investigation of Sundvor. At the trial it was stated (and Strand will say today) that there have been constant verbal exchanges instigated by Sundvor ever since. That night in 2017 at the bar things came to a head as Sundvor initiated an altercation that appeared to start verbally and ended physically with Sundvor shoving Stand followed by a scuffle where Sundvor landed a couple punches to Strand’s face. Video surveillance in the bar caught the incident. Throughout the trial jurors were able to watch the incident, which lasted less than two minutes in real time, frame by frame over the course of two days.
The jury of three women and three men took about two hours to deliberate Friday afternoon before returning with the not-guilty verdict.
In an interview today (Monday) with KDLM, Strand answered the question of why go through the process pleading not guilty when a guilty plea would have resulted in paying a $200 fine and the charge reduced to a petty misdemeanor? He says it ultimately was about principle and publicly stating his side of the story (click here).
In an interview following the trial
Friday, Strand’s attorney, Robert Fowler, said his client, Robert Strand, is
eager and anxious to get back to work and put this behind him. “He loves to
work for the Detroit Lakes community.”
Fowler said now it’s a proven and recorded fact Robert Strand was never guilty. He says the question that remains is why the city chose to put the officer on paid leave, for 13 months and counting, for a charge, not a conviction, of a misdemeanor--and as the jurors and the public in attendance at the trial were reminded--innocent until proven guilty. The attorney says there was and is no legal basis.
“It was a very wasteful decision on the city's part,” he said.
Fowler says he plans to send the City of Detroit Lakes a letter requesting Sergeant Strand be taken off leave and allowed back to work, immediately.
Strand says the other takeaways from the process will, if anything, make him a better officer. (Audio click here)
Strand says he knows it was
uncomfortable for his co-workers, officers and deputies involved in the initial
investigation, to take the stand at the trial and he has extreme respect for
them. He also thanked his former bosses, retired police chiefs Kel Keena and
Tim Eggebraaten, for their support throughout the last year.