Man sentenced to one year in jail, 20 years probation for 2012 ‘road rage’ incident

Joseph Duane Kadlec
Joseph Duane Kadlec

by Rachel Kytonen

A 73-year-old Cambridge man will spend one year in the Isanti County Jail and 20 years on supervised probation for a September 2012 road rage incident that escalated into a shooting in the Isanti Police Department parking lot.

Joseph Duane Kadlec was sentenced June 25 in Isanti County District Court in Cambridge after being found guilty, following a jury trial in March, of felony first-degree assault, causing great bodily harm; felony second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon, causing substantial bodily harm; and felony discharge of a dangerous weapon in a municipality.

On the first-degree assault conviction, Judge James Dehn stayed a sentence of eight years and seven months in the Minnesota Correctional Facility in St. Cloud. However, Dehn did order Kadlec to serve one year in the Isanti County Jail, and remain on supervised probation for 20 years. If Kadlec violates any conditions of his probation, the prison time may be executed.

On the second-degree assault charge, Dehn stayed a sentence of three years and ordered 20 years supervised probation.

Dehn ordered a stay of imposition regarding the felony discharge of a dangerous weapon conviction, and a sentence of one year and one month was stayed. However, five years supervised probation was ordered.

The incident took place Sept. 29, 2012. According to the criminal complaint, witnesses saw Kyle William Ronning, of Columbia Heights, and another motorcyclist trying to pass Kadlec heading southbound on Highway 65 between Cambridge and Isanti. When the motorcyclists tried to pass, witnesses said Kadlec swerved his vehicle toward them.

Kadlec then turned onto County Road 5 and headed west toward the Isanti Police Department with the two motorcyclists following. An incident ensued, and as officers walked out of the police department, they heard a gunshot and saw Ronning holding his mouth. The officers observed a 9 mm handgun lying on the driver’s seat of Kadlec’s car and took possession of it.

When officers looked closer at Ronning, they observed a large quantity of blood, shattered teeth, a lot of damaged tissue and determined he had been shot in the face. It appeared there was a bullet protruding from the lower portion of the right ear, which appeared to be where the bullet was lodged.

In his pre-sentencing arguments, Assistant Isanti County Attorney Bob Bieniek recommending sentencing Kadlec to the maximum sentence allowable under state sentencing guidelines, eight years and seven months.

However, Dehn felt the public would be better protected with ordering Kadlec to 20-years supervised probation.

“After Mr. Kadlec would be discharged from the Department of Corrections, there isn’t any public protection,” Dehn said. “To ensure this man never drives again or possesses a firearm again, I feel there would be more protection for the public with the 20-year probationary period. I have to take into consideration the defendant’s age, his prior record, his cooperation with probation and the letters of support I’ve received on his behalf from his family and friends. … I will make sure Mr. Kadlec has no driver’s license for the rest of his life. Mr. Kadlec will be monitored by probation and this will give us more public safety for the public. The court wants 20 years of watching Mr. Kadlec and he will possess no firearms or ever get behind the wheel of a car again for the safety of everyone out there.”

Bieniek reminded the court of the severity of injuries the victim sustained.

“Kyle Ronning is lucky to be alive,” Bieniek said. “Few people can say they’ve stared at the business end of a pistol at point-blank range and lived to tell about it. Because Mr. Ronning was able to turn his head at the last second, the bullet hit his right side of his jaw and lodged under his ear. If it wasn’t for Mr. Ronning flinching at the last second, we would have a tombstone somewhere in Isanti County for Kyle William Ronning.”

Bieniek explained Ronning has a permanent disfigurement of his jaw and it has impounded his jaw function.

“His right side jaw is permanently disfigured, and there were times during his testimony during the court trial that he would begin to slur his words and would have to readjust his jaw to speak with better diction,” Bieniek said.

After the September incident, the county attorney’s office put out a request to area law enforcement agencies asking for information on Kadlec’s involvement with any other traffic reports.

“Our office received more than 30 police reports that involved Kadlec in one way or another,” Bieniek said. Bieniek also brought up the fact that Kadlec allegedly violated a court order after the September 2012 incident when he was stopped in Pine County, Minnesota, on Feb. 12, 2014, for driving his vehicle 90 mph in a posted 70 mph zone.

Bieniek said it appears for most of Kadlec’s life he had a successful career in the gun marketing business and did a lot of volunteering for various organizations, including the veterans and Boy Scouts. He noted Kadlec received the prestigious Silver Beaver award from the Boy Scouts, which is given to registered adult leaders who have made an impact on the lives of youth through service.

“There’s this commendable Mr. Kadlec, but then there’s also this Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” Bieniek said. “It is this Mr. Hyde that is a very clear threat to public safety and has a significant amount of road rage incidents in the past decade and feels empowered with a gun in his hand.”

Norman Ronning, the victim’s father, spoke prior to sentencing.

“I didn’t realize this guy was that busy,” he said. “Joseph Kadlec is a predator. I believe all his victims were premeditated, random victims and he was looking for a fight. I can’t even call him a guy; he’s a monster. You tried to take my son’s life. I’m 62, and not a particularly nice guy, but I don’t have any road rage. … I got the call about this while up in Cass Lake … It’s like you got hit with lightning. All I wanted to do was kill him. It took me to Brainerd to start thinking differently. I want him put away for the maximum amount. … My kids are my best friends and we the people do not want him out among us, ever.”

Kadlec’s attorney, Daniel Gurrero, explained he only received 21 different police reports, and of those Kadlec was the complainant on 14; all involved parties called on three on them; and Kadlec was the subject on four of them.

“Twenty-one is still a lot of police reports, whether you were the complainant or the victim,” Gurrero said. “But out of those 21, my client didn’t receive one single ticket. None of those incidents involved a ticket or a conviction.”

Gurrero said Kadlec is remorseful for what happened.

“Prior to this incident, my client doesn’t have any convictions and has lived a good life,” Gurrero said. “My client has expressed his remorse and wishes he hadn’t hurt Mr. Ronning. He has told me at one point he should have just taken the beating, but he was afraid for himself and more so for his wife. My client has always been respectful to you, judge, the courts, and he has the support of his family and friends.”

Kadlec maintains that Ronning hit him and the gun accidentally went off. However, Bieniek said there were no marks, redness or evidence on Kadlec’s face to support that accusation.

“I wish this whole thing never happened, and I’m very sorry,” Kadlec said. “I wish Mr. Ronning could have seen his son that day. I was hit on the right side of my head and when my shoulder turned, the gun discharged. I’m sorry for the victim’s pain, my pain and everyone’s pain. I was trying to get to the police department and I called for help and no one came. … I have no road rage charges against me whatsoever. … The gun was under my arm when he hit me. What would you do if you were threatened with death?”

Dehn sympathized with the victim’s family.

“Mr. Ronning, I appreciate your comments on behalf of your family and your son, and he had a right not to be shot, plain and simple,” Dehn said. “I don’t think you can discount almost a second murder that day; what led to this incident is fully disturbing. We had independent witnesses at the trial, and there is no question Mr. Kadlec tried to run Mr. Ronning off the road. If Mr. Ronning had hit the pavement, we would have had death out there. … The pull trigger on the gun had to be deliberate. The gun used is not a hair trigger.”

Dehn also acknowledged, prior to sentencing, he received several letters from Kadlec’s doctors regarding the many health issues Kadlec is facing, including a diagnosis of major depressive disorder not resolvable in his lifetime. Dehn said the doctors’ letters said it would be detrimental to Kadlec’s health if he was removed from current surroundings, and currently Kadlec’s wife provides round-the-clock medical support for her husband.

“In my 27 years on the bench, I don’t think I’ve had anyone as clinically ill or have as many medical problems as Mr. Kadlec,” Dehn said. “It looks like Mr. Kadlec takes 60 pills a day on 34 medications.”

Besides the one year in jail, and 20 years supervised probation, Dehn also ordered restitution to Ronning’s family. Dehn said he will keep the restitution filings open for 30 days following sentencing.

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