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Pelican Rapids psychologist to get counseling in road rage incident

MOORHEAD -- A 67-year-old psychologist who punched a woman through her car window after she cut him off on a Moorhead street will avoid jail time, a sentence the judge originally questioned.

Neil Robert Shirreff of Pelican Rapids, Minn., on Tuesday pleaded guilty in Clay County District Court to a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct for the June 4 incident.

Shirreff admitted at the hearing that the victim, who has not been named, angered him while he was driving down First Avenue North. With both cars at a red light at 11th Street, "I got out, walked up to (her car) and inappropriately hit the person," he said.

As part of a plea deal, the psychologist was ordered to complete an anger management program and pay fines and restitution. A 30-day jail term will be stayed, meaning he won't have to serve it as long as he does not commit a similar crime in the next year.

Before he agreed to the plea deal, Judge Steven J. Cahill said he had qualms about it being too friendly.

"It seems to me it's a little bit lenient," Cahill said before asking the attorneys to explain why it's not.

Jade Rosenfeldt, attorney for Shirreff, said her client doesn't have any criminal history and the punch was an aberration, "one that hasn't happened before and won't happen again."

Gregg Jensen, assistant county attorney, said the victim in the attack signed off on the plea agreement and was most concerned that Shirreff pay the dental bills she incurred from being hit in the face.

So far, that restitution is nearly $300, but the amount will be left open for six months to take care of any further dentistry bills. Shirreff was also ordered to pay a total of $335 in fines, fees and prosecution expenses.

The initial charge of fifth-degree assault was dismissed.

Before he was arrested, Shirreff denied to police that he hit the woman and said that he was scared of her because "there was something wrong with her." He said she was crying when she passed him and that after he checked on her, she screamed at him and followed his car.

Told by police that witnesses saw him attack the driver, Shirreff recanted his story and confessed.