Ex-Viking Eller gets 'stern sentence'

MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Vikings great Carl Eller was sentenced Monday to 60 days in the county workhouse for resisting Minneapolis police officers after a traffic stop, a punishment that went beyond prosecutors' recommendations.

Hennepin County District Judge Dan Mabley denied a request from Eller's attorney to delay the sentence during an appeal and immediately ordered Eller into custody.

Mabley said he wanted to send a message that he thought Eller's public criticism of the courts and police were baseless. Eller has filed a federal lawsuit claiming officers violated his civil rights, used excessive force and concealed videotape evidence of his arrest.

"This was a stern sentence," Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said.

Eller's attorney, Albert Goins, called the sentence "extraordinary" and said he would discuss an appeal with Eller as soon as possible.

"We are surprised and chagrined that the judge would impose a jail sentence," Goins said. He noted that the prosecution asked for home confinement, not jail time.

Goins said Eller has never criticized the court, although he had questioned the conduct of police and prosecutors. Goins said Eller was being punished for exercising his First Amendment rights and the civil rights of all defendants.

"I think that raises serious concerns for all citizens," Goins said.

In January, Mabley convicted the 67-year-old Eller of fourth-degree assault of a police officer and second-degree refusal to submit to chemical testing, both gross misdemeanors. On Monday, Mabley fined Eller $1,500 on each charge.

Mabley found that Eller had been drinking at a Minneapolis bar before he drove through a stop sign and swerved toward a squad car, just missing it, on April 9. Officers followed Eller, but he did not stop until he pulled into his driveway.

Mabley found that once Eller stepped out of his vehicle, he did not obey commands to show his hands and he resisted arrest. He fought with the two officers, and was not subdued until backup officers arrived.

Freeman said Eller will also get chemical dependency treatment and be subject to random testing. Should he fail a test, he could spend more time in the workhouse.

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.