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Gay man charged in brawl pleads not guilty

DULUTH -- A Duluth man who said he was beaten because he is gay and was charged with assault along with several others in a May 26 incident pleaded not guilty Tuesday. Max Andrew Pelofske, 22, said he plans to take his case to trial.

Pelofske told police that he was attacked during a gravel pit party after he was asked if he was gay and responded, "Yes, I'm gay; Is that a problem?" A fight allegedly ensued in which a few people sustained minor injuries, including Pelofske.

St. Louis County Sheriff's investigators say numerous witnesses told them Pelofske was at least partially responsible for instigating the melee.

When the charges were filed June 5, Assistant St. Louis County Attorney Nathaniel Stumme said the evidence didn't justify filing hate-crime charges. Stumme said people "we would presume to be (Pelofske's) friends" did not support his allegations.

According to the criminal charges and in interviews with the News Tribune, three people at the party that night -- all of them friends with Pelofske -- said Pelofske was attacked after saying he was gay. However, other witnesses at the party said they never heard anything about Pelofske's sexual orientation before the alleged assaults.