Hager City MMA fighter arrested
RiverTowns Publishing, The Republican Eagle
Published Thursday, February 26, 2009
A 33-year-old ďultimate fighterĒ and convicted felon was arrested Friday at a Hastings residence after punching three men at a River Falls, Wis., bar in late January, and knocking two of them out.
Following a court appearance Tuesday in Dakota County, Klair was turned over to Wisconsin authorities and extradited to Pierce County.
Later Tuesday afternoon, Klair had a bail hearing in Pierce County and was released after signing a $5,000 signature bond. He listed Hager City as his home address.
Klair will next appear in Pierce County Circuit Court in Ellsworth at 9:15 a.m. Wednesday, March 4, for a preliminary hearing.
Assistant District Attorney Bill Thorie said Klair, before his arrest Friday, had contacted area law enforcement to arrange to turn himself in and also didnít try to fight his extradition to Wisconsin. Thorie said for those reasons he didnít consider Klair a flight risk and that his release on the signature bond seemed justified.
The two victims with the most injuries are former River Falls High School athletes from the late 1990s: Joe Cudd, 29, 6-4, 260 pounds, an all-state wrestling champ (1997 and 1998) and all-state football lineman in 1997; and Bennie Berg, 28, 6-2, 250 pounds, a former wrestler and football player.
A third injured River Falls man, Jesse W. Smith, was knocked down but not out.
According to the criminal complaint against Klair, all three were hit on the left side of the face. The blows came fast and were described as unprovoked.
Cudd needed six staples to the side of his head after striking it on a video machine as he fell. He also needed eight stitches to his left lower lip, sustained a concussion and needed a CT scan.
Berg also had a concussion, needed a CT scan and had six stitches to the upper left side of his lip. He also had two lacerations to the inside of his lower lip and twisted his ankle while falling.
Doctors checked Smith out for what he thought was a broken jaw, but determined it wasnít broken.
Witnesses say Berg was unconscious for about four minutes while Cudd was out only briefly.
The incident happened around 1:45 a.m., Saturday, Jan. 24, at Johnnieís Bar, 116 N. Main St. in River Falls.
About a half hour before the fisticuffs, Klair and a buddy walked into Johnnieís and ordered mixed drinks.
The bartender said Klairís friend soon fell asleep at the bar.
Cudd, who later told police he was somewhat intoxicated, came up to the sleeping man and first stuck a wet finger and then a straw with water in his ear. Cudd said he wasnít trying to be mean but admitted to picking on the man for falling asleep.
Cudd is also a former bartender and bouncer. He said he was confronted by Klair, whom he didnít know, and that Klair said, ďLeave him alone. He is with me.Ē
Cudd said he backed off to avoid a fight and raised his hands in an apologetic gesture. He described Klair, just under six feet and muscular, as agitated.
Cudd said as he began turning away, Klair swung a fist and caught him on the side of the mouth. The next thing Cudd remembered was looking at his injured face in the bar bathroom.
A male bartender escorted Klair outside. Klair argued and swore but didnít resist. His sleepy friend went with him.
Berg, another bar patron, said he had about 10-11 beers that night, didnít see Cudd go down, but saw the bartender trying to remove Klair. Others were following.
Berg decided to help since the situation was tense. He stepped outside the bar to make sure the person being kicked out left.
Once outside the door, Berg said he was hit on the left side of the head and fell unconscious to the sidewalk.
The next thing Berg remembered was being back in Johnnieís with a patrol officer and sergeant shining a flashlight in his face and saying he needed medical attention.
Smith, another bar patron, said he saw Cudd do something to the sleeping manís ear and that the man raised his head and slapped at Cudd, as if he wanted him to stop.
Smith said that the suspect, later identified as Klair, told Cudd to get away, that Cudd tried to do so but was hit in the head anyway and dropped.
Smith was upset, swore at Klair and asked why he had hit Cudd. Smith and Klair swore at each other as the bartender got Klair outside.
When Smith got outside, he saw his friend, Berg, lying on the sidewalk. He began to say something to Klairís friend when Klair hit him on the left side of the face, near his jaw and ear.
Smith was knocked down but got up. Klairís friend warned Smith to leave Klair alone because he was an Ultimate Fighter.
Klair took off his black pullover jacket and indicated to Smith that he wanted to fight. Smith declined, but knowing police were called, kept watch on Klair and his friend as they walked south on Main Street.
Klairís friend picked up Klairís black jacket and went into the Ground Zero Bar on the other side of Main Street. Others who followed Klair said he went toward the Lazy River Bar, 115 W. Walnut St., though itís unclear if he actually went inside.
River Falls police officers werenít able to find and question Klair. Another person on Main Street at the time claimed to know the suspect and said he was from Red Wing.
Using an image from his Minnesota driverís license, Klair was eventually picked out of a photo lineup by several witnesses.
Klair was previously been convicted of felony substantial battery in 1998 in Pierce County and misdemeanor battery in 1994 in Pierce County. He was also convicted of disorderly conduct in 2005 in La Crosse, Wis., in which a battery charge was dismissed.
Berg told police that Klair acted like a very experienced, knowledgeable fighter. According to one Web site, Klair is 6-0 as an Ultimate Fighter, with three of his wins coming from knockouts. An Ultimate Fighter uses mixed martial arts including cross-training in boxing, jujitsu, wrestling and more.
One-on-one contests are staged in caged rings in front of spectators. Bigger events are televised on cable.
The two felony charges against Klair each carry a maximum sentence of three and a half years in prison and a $10,000 fine.