by April Scheinoha
A Thief River Falls City Council member was sentenced Monday, Aug. 6 for his role in a fight at City Hall a month earlier.
Jerald Dean Brown, 73, Thief River Falls, pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct. As part of a plea agreement, a six-month stay of adjudication was granted. He was ordered to pay the $100 cost of prosecution. Brown was also ordered to remain law-abiding, be of good behavior, and have no same or similar charges. If he complies with those conditions during that six-month period, the charge will be dismissed.
“It was bad situation that turned worse,” Brown told Judge Tamara Yon while pleading guilty. He admitted that he got into a shoving match with former council member Josh Hagen during a committee meeting Tuesday, July 10. Brown admitted that his behavior would have alarmed others attending the meeting.
Former council member Hagen, 38, Thief River Falls, also appeared in court Monday. He resigned from the council a week after the committee meeting. Hagen’s court hearing was continued until Monday, Aug. 13 in order for him to speak with an attorney from the Public Defender’s Office. Hagen has been charged with misdemeanor fifth degree assault.
The complaints indicated that both men suffered minor injuries in the fight during the Administrative Services Committee meeting. Both men served on the committee at the time with Brown serving as the chairperson. Two other council members and three city employees were also present during the public committee meeting. No members of the public were present.
The two men were involved in a verbal altercation after Hagen allegedly made comments to Council Member Curt Howe. With the exception of Hagen, all of the remaining six people attending the meeting said that both men then stood up and walked toward one another. With the exception of Hagen, the other six people said a shoving match ensued behind Council Member Jason Aarestad. He was sitting between the two men.
Two witnesses said Brown picked up a chair to defend himself after being shoved by Hagen. One of them said Brown eventually threw the chair at Hagen. Hagen said Brown held the chair and swung it at him, according to the complaints. The two men then ended up on the floor with Hagen on top of Brown. Three of the four council members present – Howe, Aarestad and Brown – said Hagen physically assaulted Brown while the two men were on the floor. Aarestad allegedly said Hagen was “pounding on [Brown’s] head as hard as he could.” Howe allegedly said Hagen was kicking Brown in the face while Brown was on all fours.
Hagen told Chief Deputy Seth Vettleson that he thought it was a serious threat when Brown grabbed the chair. He allegedly said he then grabbed Brown by the back of the neck, kneed him and threw him to he ground. Hagen said he continued hitting Brown in order to have Brown release his legs. (Hagen suffers from Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, which affects his legs.) None of the other five people in the room saw Brown trying to hit Hagen.
Three people attempted to restrain Hagen. Several witnesses heard Hagen tell Howe that he would punch him if he didn’t get out of Hagen’s face.
Hagen apparently told law enforcement that someone had attempted to punch him. The complaint indicated that no one saw anyone attempting to punch him. Things apparently calmed down at some point, and the meeting ended. Law enforcement was alerted about the incident later that evening.