Undersheriff: Moss, Culpepper not involved

By Bill Williamson

Knight Ridder Newspapers

MILACA, Minn. -- The Arctic Blast at Mille Lacs Lake is supposed to be four days of snowmobiling fun to help kids.

But this year the Minnesota Vikings' biggest fund-raiser spun wildly off the trail last weekend, marred by allegations of sexual assault involving at least one player and one fan and a ticket issued to the top Vikings executive at the event for refusing a driver sobriety test.

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Questions remain who the one Vikings player is. Vikings sources said at least one player has retained an attorney.

About 10 current players and 10 former players were at the Arctic Blast charity event, including Randy Moss and Daunte Culpepper. Mille Lacs County Undersheriff Alan Marxhausen declined to say which player or players are being investigated but he did say: "Randy Moss and Daunte Culpepper are not being investigated. They are not involved."

A 30-year-old woman said she was sexually assaulted early Sunday at Eddy's Resort near Grand Casino-Mille Lacs after socializing with some of the Vikings. Several team sources told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that at least one unidentified player is being investigated in addition to at least two of his friends, who were not affiliated with the team.

A fan attending the event, Joel Blatz, 39, of Shorewood was charged Monday with first- and second-degree sexual assault for allegedly raping a woman in his car after drinking Saturday night at the Blue Goose Inn bar in Garrison with members of the Vikings organization.

Blatz allegedly offered the woman a ride home from the Blue Goose but instead drove her to a cul de sac and allegedly assaulted her, said Mille Lacs County Attorney Jan Kolb. Blatz then allegedly dropped the woman off along the road, where she was later found by law enforcement officers and taken to the Onamia Hospital.

Blatz appeared Monday in Mille Lacs County District Court and was released on $25,000 bail. Blatz intends to plead not guilty, said his Minneapolis attorney, Bill Mauzy.

Blatz is the brother of Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz of the Minnesota Supreme Court.

Vikings executive vice president Mike Kelly, who attended the charity event, was cited for refusing to take a sobriety test after being stopped on U.S. 169 near the Grand Casino-Mille Lacs about 2:50 a.m. Sunday by Mille Lacs Indian Reservation police.

Kelly declined to comment about his arrest. His license was revoked for a year in connection with the incident.

Kelly said Mille Lacs County investigators have not told the team who is being investigated for sexual assault.

Marxhausen said investigators gathered physical evidence and sent it to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. Marxhausen said the sheriff's department had begun scheduling interviews.

"Any charges will not be brought until interviews are conducted," Marxhausen said. "This could take a while. It could be more than a week before any charges would be filed."

Kelly said the organization will provide authorities with any witnesses who are support staff employees, but they will have to go through players' agents and players' attorneys for cooperation because it is the off-season. Vikings attorney Chris Madel said he has been in contact with Mille Lacs investigators and that the team is fully cooperating.

The Mille Lacs County Sheriff's Department is also investigating allegations of a third weekend sexual assault, the second involving someone from the Vikings organization, sources said.

Team sources said the alleged sexual assault after the Vikings party occurred near dawn Sunday. The woman who made the allegations was not affiliated with the team. She told investigators she was assaulted at Eddy's Resort near the casino. Sources said the alleged victim was in a hot tub with a player and his friends in a party that involved heavy drinking.

The Arctic Blast event is the team's biggest annual fund-raiser, and proceeds go to the Vikings Children's Fund. The snowmobile rally, which goes through several towns, attracts thousands of fans. There has been some informal talk in the organization whether to continue it.

"We want it to go on in the future," Kelly said. "What happened was terrible but the event has always been positive and we want it to be positive again in the future."

Team owner Red McCombs and team president Gary Woods -- both based in San Antonio -- were unavailable Tuesday. Team sources said McCombs has been kept informed about the events of the weekend.

A statement released by the team said the organization is gathering information and will comment when "we have more facts."

The event has brought thousands of visitors to the businesses that ring the massive, frozen lake. Crowds have topped 5,000 for the fund-raiser, said Judy Cain, executive director of the Mille Lacs Area Tourism Council.

"It's a big party," Cain said.