DULUTH – A longtime firefighter has been placed on supervised probation for three years and will likely lose his job after being convicted of assaulting a woman along a trail in west Duluth more than two years ago year.
Conrad John Sunde IV, 51, of Proctor, received the sentence on Monday from State District Court Judge Theresa Neo.
Defense attorneys argued that Sunde should receive a stay of imposition – a more favorable outcome that would allow his third-degree assault conviction to be considered a misdemeanor when probation ends. They told the court it was probably Sunde’s only option to remain fired and employed as a firefighter in the city of Duluth.
But Neo refused, citing the distressing effects of victim Mary Modec, and telling Sunde: “You may well be forced by this to find something else to do, and that may be just what you need. .”
Both Sunde and Modec testified in a bench trial in April after Sunde waived his right to a jury. Neo later convicted Sunde of third-degree assault.
Trial testimony said Modec, then 65, confronted Sunde about her off-leash dogs on the Duluth Traverse Trail System on July 10, 2020. Modec said Sunde hit her with his mountain bike , throwing her to the ground, before rubbing her face against the gravel and throwing her phone into the woods and leaving the scene.
Modec suffered a broken nose, a deviated septum, and numerous cuts, scrapes, and bruises in the incident.
Sunde claimed he acted in self-defense, fearing Modec would use a canister of pepper spray around his neck against him or his dogs. He said he tried to put the bike between them and denied pushing his face into the ground.
Neo, in his ruling, called Sunde’s defense “patently absurd”, calling him the “aggressor” in the incident and saying he could have left the scene without resorting to violence.
On Monday, Sunde apologized to Modec and the community for his actions, while Modec gave an impassioned speech about his physical and emotional hurts that day.
“I’ve been through two years of hell because of this guy, and it’s still going,” she said.
This is a developing story; check back for updates.