A prominent University of Minnesota professor and arctic explorer pleaded guilty Thursday to felony domestic assault by strangulation for violently attacking his fiancée in a drunken rage last year.
Aaron H. Doering, 47, a tenured professor, also pleaded guilty in Hennepin County District Court to a misdemeanor charge of violating a domestic abuse no-contact order. Under the terms of his plea agreement, the charge will be downgraded to a gross misdemeanor at sentencing in June. He is expected to serve 180 days in the county workhouse and complete two years of probation.
He must also complete treatment for alcohol addiction and mental health issues.
Doering's attorney, Christa Groshek, described the plea deal as a generous offer by the state that will prevent him from having a felony conviction on his record.
"This is not a standard sentence, and it was an advantageous offer for Dr. Doering that allows him and the complainant to move forward," she said.
Doering was arrested Dec. 26 following a report of an assault in progress at the northeast Minneapolis residence he shared with his fiancée. She told police that during the course of an argument, Doering grabbed her by the hair and dragged her through the apartment. He later beat and choked her until she was unable to breathe and felt as if she'd lose consciousness, court records show.
In court Thursday, Doering admitted that he'd been drinking heavily that night and said they began fighting with over whether he was being unfaithful. He denied remembering many of the details because he was intoxicated, but contented that his partner's account was true.
A university spokeswoman said Thursday evening that Doering's employment status with the school has not changed. He has remained on leave since shortly after his arrest, but school officials declined to say whether he was still being paid.
Three complaints against Doering were filed with the university in recent years. All were closed without disciplinary action, said spokeswoman Caitlin Hurley.
Doering's ex-wife, Amy Matthews, and a former fiancée, Nina Orezzoli, told KSTP in February that they experienced similar instances of physical abuse at his hands.
Doering, of Woodbury, is a national speaker on climate change and a Canadian arctic explorer whose expeditions landed him at the forefront of adventure learning. As director of the Learning Technologies Media Lab at the U, Doering uses technology like drones to give students a glimpse into issues of sustainability, culture and the environment.
Liz Sawyer • 612-673-4648