A St. Paul bar and restaurant owner at the center of a case that resulted in the firings of five St. Paul police officers was sentenced Wednesday to 90 days in jail for assault.
Tou Cha, 50, pleaded guilty in August to third-degree assault for an attack on June 17, 2018, captured on a police squad-car dash camera. He will serve that time under electronic home monitoring, but is permitted to leave to participate in Hmong New Year. A Ramsey County judge placed Cha on probation for five years with a 15-month prison sentence stayed.
Cha, an ex-cop, admitted in court to striking a man in the head with a wooden club outside his business, Checkerboard Pizza in the Payne-Phalen neighborhood. The victim, who Cha identified as his wife’s nephew, suffered substantial bodily harm, including a head injury that required 24 staples to close.
Cha testified that before the assault, a fight erupted outside the East Side bar he owns with his wife. Police were called but they left without making any arrests. Three people soon returned to the alley behind Checkerboard, Cha said, armed with a wooden club.
When Cha approached the men, he said, “They attacked me.”
“I was able to take away the club and hit them back,” Cha testified in August.
But Cha admitted that after one of the men was on the ground, he picked up the club and hit him. Two other men with Cha, whom he did not identify, also kicked the man on the ground.
Five St. Paul police officers who are accused of standing by as Cha committed the assault were fired in June in what Chief Todd Axtell called an “ugly day in our department’s history.” Internal affairs records identified the officers as Nicholas Grundei, Robert Luna, Christopher Rhoades, Nathan Smith and Jordan Wild. They have appealed their firings.
Cha was a St. Paul police officer for 11 years. He resigned in 2005 after pleading guilty to lending out his service pistol, which was later used to shoot up the home of a Hmong leader. He was sentenced to 30 days in the county workhouse and five years’ probation for that crime.
Staff writer Shannon Prather contributed to this report.