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Alexandria man found guilty of felony assault

An Alexandria man has been found guilty of one count of felony second-degree assault. The order for judgment against Judd Hoff was filed Thursday, Aug. 26, by District Court Judge Michelle Clark and stems from an incident where Hoff used a machete to go after a man who took his American flag.

An Alexandria man has been found guilty of one count of felony second-degree assault.

The order for judgment against Judd Hoff was filed Thursday, Aug. 26, by District Court Judge Michelle Clark and stems from an incident where Hoff used a machete to go after a man who took his American flag.

The maximum sentence for the charge is seven years in prison and/or a $14,000 fine.

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The incident took place on Aug. 18, 2020, on the east side of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office on 7th Avenue West in Alexandria.

According to the original criminal complaint, Eric Cornett of Alexandria noticed a white car with an upside down American flag on top of it. He reportedly told an officer after the incident that he was having a rough day and was upset by the flag so he stopped his vehicle, got out and told the owner of the vehicle, identified as Hoff, to turn the flag around.

Cornett then reportedly walked back to Hoff’s vehicle and took the flag off the roof and then started walking away with the flag.

However, in her order Judge Clark said Cornett's "testimonial statements attempting to minimize his actions related to seeing defendant's car are not credible."

"It is clear from surveillance video provided to the court that Mr. Cornett saw defendant's vehicle long before the incident came to a head on Fillmore Street," the order reads. "In fact, Mr. Cornett followed defendant closely for many blocks before seizing an opportunity to cut defendant off and cause defendant to stop defendant's vehicle."

Following Cornett's removal of the flag, Hoff exited his vehicle with a 23-inch Fiskar bladed tool and demanded the flag be returned.

According to the order for judgment, witnesses said Hoff followed Cornett back to Cornett's car, continuing to demand the return of the flag and pole. Cornett then drew a handgun when Hoff was five to 10 feet away from him.

Deputy Shawn Schmidt responded to the incident from the Douglas County Sheriff's Office and saw Hoff with the blade raised, whereupon the men put down their weapons and were cooperative.

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While Judge Clark wrote that Cornett's actions that day were "unconscionable," she ruled that Hoff did not act in self-defense when he drew his blade.

"Defendant approached Mr. Cornett with a machete pointed at him to instill fear so that he would comply with defendant's command to return the flag," she wrote. "As Mr. Cornett retreated, defendant approached. Defendant continued to keep pace with Mr. Cornett's retreat all around his vehicle, into the street and back onto the sidewalk. Mr. Cornett felt sufficient fear of being stabbed or killed by defendant's dangerous weapon, a machete, that he pulled his handgun. Even then, defendant did not stop."

Judge Clark wrote that Hoff "had ample opportunity to retreat and avoid a confrontation. … And while defendant was not the initial aggressor, and Mr. Cornett did take defendant's property, defendant did not act to avoid danger."

Hoff is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 4.

At the time of the incident, Hoff was a candidate for the Alexandria School District 206 School Board.

Travis Gulbrandson covers several beats, including Osakis School Board and Osakis City Council, along with the Brandon-Evansville School Board. His focus will also be on crime and court news.
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