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Bemidji man pleads guilty for crash that put officer in hospital

Duane Porter of Bemidji had a blood-alcohol concentration of more than three times the legal when he crashed his car into another vehicle on March 14, police say.

A Bemidji man who had a blood-alcohol concentration more than three times the legal limit to drive when he ran a red light and struck a car, seriously injuring a veteran Duluth police investigator, pleaded guilty Wednesday to three crimes.

Duane Klynn Porter, 25, pleaded guilty to criminal vehicular operation causing great bodily harm, driving while impaired and driving after suspension in the March 14 crash that caused numerous injuries to 20-year Duluth police officer Don Boso, who was just days from retirement at the time.

To provide a basis for the court to accept the guilty plea, St. Louis County Attorney Mark Rubin asked Porter if he would agree that he caused great bodily harm to Boso, who sustained a concussion, internal bleeding of the brain, cuts near both eyes and bruising of two internal organs. The defendant agreed. He admitted his guilt and took responsibility for his actions.

Boso, his department's Investigator of the Year in 2006, still was suffering from the effects of his injuries when reached by phone at his home after the plea hearing in St. Louis County District Court. Before the crash, he had planned on Wednesday being his first day of his retirement. Now his official retirement day is uncertain.

"Right now I'm a prisoner in my own home and I don't know when the pain is going to end,'' he said. "Is he a hero because he pled? He's no hero to get in the car and drive like that and smash into people. The system will play through."

Boso came to the Duluth Police Department in 1991 after three years with the Crosby (Minn.) Police Department. He became an investigator in the special investigations unit in 1998. In 2004, he transferred to the property crimes unit.

The officer said he's been gratified by the support of friends, family and the public.

"The show of support has been overwhelming, just overwhelming, almost humbling,'' Boso said.

Sixth Judicial District Judge Sally Tarnowski withheld accepting the plea until a probation officer with Arrowhead Regional Corrections has investigated the defendant's background. Sentencing is scheduled for April 29.

Porter's blood-alcohol concentration was measured at 0.28 percent after the crash. The defendant's criminal record includes convictions for driving while intoxicated, hit and run, careless driving, tampering with a motor vehicle, possessing stolen property and driving after revocation.

Under state sentencing guidelines, Porter will receive a stayed prison sentence and probation.

According to the criminal complaint:

A motorist reported to 911 at 6:10 a.m. on March 14 that she had seen a white minivan driving in the wrong lane on Sixth Avenue East. About 10 minutes later, that vehicle, driven by Porter, reportedly ran a red light at the intersection of Mesaba Avenue and Rice Lake Road, crashing into a 2010 Ford Fusion owned by the city of Duluth and being driven by Boso.

A witness said the light turned green and Boso started forward with the witness driving a vehicle behind Boso. He said the investigator was about 20 feet into the intersection when he was "T-boned" on the left side by a minivan. The witness' vehicle then struck Boso's vehicle from behind.

When an investigator asked where he was coming from, Porter said he could not remember. When asked where he was going, he said he was going to continue partying. When asked how much he had to drink, he responded, "Not enough."

When medical personnel arrived, Porter became combative with fire department personnel and paramedics. He was transported to St. Luke's hospital, where a blood test was administered over his objection.

Boso was wearing a seat belt; Porter was not. An investigator found three unopened 24-ounce cans of Steel Reserve malt liquor inside Porter's vehicle.