FARGO - The West Fargo landlord who fought all the way to the Supreme Court a conviction for running over a former tenant with his Hummer is, despite his declarations to the contrary, going to prison.
At a tearful hearing in Cass County court Wednesday, Alois Vetter asked the court not to take him into custody until Feb. 14, saying he needed that time for he and his wife to sell their business.
"Thinking I may leave the area is so totally unbelievable," Vetter said. "I've lived here 40 years. My roots are here, my wife is here.
"Yeah, I'm a big guy, I get mouthy, I get pushy at times. But that's on the outside. On the inside, my health is not so good," the 75-year-old said, his voice breaking.
Richard Edinger, Vetter's attorney, argued in court that his client wasn't threatening to leave the area when Vetter told The Forum last week he wasn't going to jail. Vetter then refused to clarify to The Forum what he meant by the statement.
Edinger said Vetter was taken unaware when a Forum reporter contacted him about the Supreme Court's decision on Jan. 23 to uphold his conviction on aggravated assault charges. The conviction was for a February 2011 incident in which Vetter ran over his former tenant, 31-year-old Brian Hemphill, in the street near Vetter's rental property in West Fargo.
County prosecutors Wednesday used the statements Vetter made to The Forum last week as the basis to revoke his bail and take him into custody before the Supreme Court mandates he serve his two-year sentence for aggravated assault with a dangerous weapon.
Edinger said Vetter spoke out of an understanding that he'd be able to apply for post-conviction relief and thus avoid serving the two years to which he was sentenced.
"Actions speak louder than words," said Edinger, adding that his client was first charged with the crime 15 months ago and hasn't fled yet.
Edinger also said his client suffers from a heart condition and high blood pressure, and Vetter told the court he'd gone to the hospital with a heart attack the day the Supreme Court decision was handed down.
Cass County prosecutor Cherie Clark argued that the court was aware of Vetter's "antics," saying that at a previous court hearing at which Vetter had collapsed, he'd then been seen walking away from court and going out to lunch that same afternoon.
Clark also said she had information from the West Fargo Police Department that Vetter had threatened he would kill himself before going to jail. And she reminded the court that Vetter was quoted in the paper as having said the case was handled by a "kangaroo court."
In his ruling, Judge Steven McCullough said he hadn't heard a sufficient explanation of Vetter's statements to The Forum, and that hearing Vetter was selling his business made him think Vetter was more of a flight risk, not less.
Vetter did not stand to be taken into custody by Cass County sheriff's deputies. Instead, he dropped his cane and had to be wheeled out of the courtroom well in an office chair from the defense table.
His wife and daughters sobbed and held each other as he was removed, telling a Forum reporter, "Don't talk to us," as they left the courtroom. Edinger had no comment.