** FILE ** Former Minnesota Vikings football great Carl Eller, shown during a celebrity golf outing in South Bend, In., in this July 20, 2007 file photo, was arrested after being involved in an alcohol-related driving offense in north Minneapolis early Wednesdy April 9, 2008. (AP Photo/Joe Raymond, file)
Former Vikings great Carl Eller was convicted Monday of assaulting a police officer who tried to arrest him after he swerved and nearly struck a squad car last April.
Hennepin County District Judge Dan Mabley ruled Eller was guilty
of fourth-degree assault of an officer and second-degree refusing
to submit to a field sobriety test. Mabley has seven days to
outline his decision in a written order.
The 67-year-old Eller faces up to a year on each count when he
is sentenced Feb. 23. Count lawyer Mike Freeman said any jail
sentence would be served in a workhouse, not prison.
"I am just totally disappointed. Really disappointed in the
system, and the way I've been treated," Eller said.
In a pending federal lawsuit, he claims officers violated his
civil rights, used excessive force and concealed videotape evidence
of his arrest.
Eller was arrested April 9 after police said they saw his
Mercedes sport utility vehicle swerve and speed through a stop sign
and narrowly miss a squad car. They gave chase and eventually
attempted to arrest Eller in his garage, where they said he punched
one officer and threw another onto the hood of his SUV. Efforts to
subdue Eller with a Taser didn't work, according to a criminal
Prosecutors earlier dropped two more serious felony charges
against Eller because they said the evidence wasn't strong enough
to support them.
"I think this is an appropriate resolution to this matter,"
Freeman said. "The evidence clearly supported a conviction of two
Eller may appeal, but his attorney, Albert Goins, wouldn't
predict the next step until he sees the judge's written ruling.
"The judge ruled against us and we respect that ruling and
we're going to have to read why he did," Goins said. "That's
where it stands."
But Goins said Eller has been treated harshly for what
essentially amounted to a traffic stop. And Goins said Eller
shouldn't have been found guilty of refusing the sobriety test
because authorities didn't submit evidence showing prior drunken
In 2006, Eller pleaded guilty to fourth-degree drunken driving
after refusing a chemical alcohol test.
Eller was one of the Vikings' celebrated "Purple People
Eaters" in his 15 years with Minnesota from 1964-78. He played in
six Pro Bowls and all four of the Vikings' Super Bowl appearances.
He finished his career in 1979 with Seattle. He was inducted into
the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2004.
One of the officers involved in the incident, Gil Antaya, was at
the courthouse after the hearing. He said he plans to testify at
Eller's sentencing hearing.
"We're extremely pleased with the judge's ruling," said police
Sgt. Jesse Garcia. "Obviously we had hoped that all four charges
"I think this is a good chance for Carl to turn his life
around," he added.