Man pleads guilty to firing shots at country club
The defendant said that friends had tried to get him help before the incident at Minikahda Country Club in Minneapolis. Had the case gone to trial, his attorney had planned to use an "involuntary intoxication" defense.
By ROCHELLE OLSON, Star Tribune
Last update: January 11, 2010 – 12:07 PM
A 64-year-old Minneapolis man pleaded guilty today to second-degree assault for shooting at the Minikahda Country Club and said afterward that he hopes something can be done to make it easier for adults with psychological problems to get help.
"For me to do anything harmful to the club, I had to be crazy because I loved the club," Joseph C. Rice said in an interview after his plea in front of Hennepin County District Court Judge Beryl Nord. "When you're out of your mind, the worst thing is you don't know you're out of your mind."
According to the charges: Police received a call at 2 a.m. from an employee at the club, 3205 Excelsior Blvd., reporting that he had spotted Rice outside the building holding a gun, had heard multiple shots, and then had seen Rice drive away in an older red Ferrari. Police tracked Rice to his nearby home. In addition to assault, he was charged with drive-by shooting, reckless discharge of a firearm and two drinking and driving offenses. All but the assault charge were dropped.
Rice will have to serve about three months in the county workhouse. He paid $3,091 to the club for the damage. He will pay more than $100,000 to get his Ferrari back.
"I feel really sorry for what I did. I really valued my membership in the club," he said.
If the case had gone to trial, Rice's lawyer Andrew Birrell planned to use an "involuntary intoxication" defense. The claim: a switch in the fall of 2008 to the antidepressant Zoloft from Wellbutrin had caused Rice to become manic-depressive for the first time in his life.
Birrell had filed notice with the court of plans to call an expert witness, a physician, who would testify that drugs such as Zoloft can cause mania in a small percentage of the population. He and Rice acknowledge that the defense would have been complicated by Rice's heavy drinking at the time.
But Rice said in the weeks leading up to the incident, friends were trying to get him into a hospital for help, but were unsuccessful. "It's almost like you have to do something bad, but then it's too late," Rice said of his friends' efforts to get him treatment.
After the shooting, his 31-year-old son and his psychiatrist succeeded in getting him into a 30-day in-patient program at Fairview Riverside Hospital. Rice said he was immediately taken off Zoloft and put back on Wellbutrin. He also has been through alcohol treatment and is active in Alcoholics Anonymous, he said.
Rice said he will send the club an apology through Birrell. "The way to say you're sorry is to live a better life," he said.
He is expected to begin serving his workhouse sentence in February.
Rochelle Olson • 612-673-1747