Eller convicted of two misdemeanors

MINNEAPOLIS -- 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. County 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 complaint.

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 gross misdemeanors."

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 driving offenses.

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 would've stuck.

"I think this is a good chance for Carl to turn his life around," he added.