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Minneapolis cop found guilty in one-punch assault case

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After about seven hours of deliberation, a jury returned with a verdict Saturday in the assault case against a Minneapolis police officer.

FOX 9's Paul Blume reports jurors found Sgt. David Clifford, 48, guilty.

The case stems from an altercation caught on surveillance tape last summer between Clifford and a bar patron, 44-year-old Brian Vander Lee, at Tanners Station in Andover.

Investigators say Clifford threw a single punch that knocked Vander Lee to the ground and put him in a coma. His injuries required three brain surgeries.

Clifford and his attorney, Fred Bruno, contened that the officer was acting in self-defense when he punched Vander Lee, the Star Tribune reports.

Bruno said in court that Clifford, a highly trained executive officer of the SWAT team, reacted instinctively when he saw Vander Lee, who had a blood-alcohol content of .189, cock his left arm.

Anoka County Attorney Tony Palumbo said a seven-year sentence is recommended under Minnesota sentencing guidelines. Two-thirds of that would be served in prison, with the rest on supervised release.

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Video shows off-duty cop in one-punch fight; charges upgraded

The Minneapolis police officer who punched a fellow customer at a bar in Andover now faces a first-degree assault charge instead of third-degree. Prosecutors cited the seriousness of the injuries sustained by Brian Vander Lee, who needed two brain surgeries. A surveillance video shows the punch.