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Limo Driver Gnida Arrested

The limousine driver in the 1997 crash that injured two Detroit Red Wings players and the team's masseur was arraigned Thursday on charges he violated probation since his early prison release last June.

Oakland County District Judge Kimberly Small also increased Richard Gnida's cash bond from $10,000 to $50,000, siding with a prosecutor's claim Gnida's jailing would better ensure his court appearances.

Gnida remained in jail Thursday afternoon.

Assistant prosecutor John Slevin had argued Gnida should be jailed without bond, given his "disdain" for the court and "total lack of responsibility in cleaning up his act."

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  • "He has shown through his alleged violations that his word to the court may not be as good as one might think," Slevin told Small. "His word really isn't worth that much."

    Gnida, 29, was arrested Wednesday night in Taylor on a warrant issued Dec. 7 by Small, six days after he failed to show for a court hearing for a series of probation violations, including allegedly unfulfilled community service and therapy.

    Gnida was driving the limousine that crashed into a tree in Birmingham June 13, 1997, six days after the Red Wings won their first Stanley Cup in 42 years. Defenseman Vladimir Konstantinov and team masseur Sergei Mnatsakanov suffered debilitating head injuries. Defenseman Vyacheslav Fetisov suffered minor injuries.

    Gnida, whose license then was revoked, later pleaded guilty to a second offense of driving without a valid license. In November 1997, Small sentenced him to nine months in jail and two years' probation scheduled to expire in November 1999.

    Gnida was ordered to appear before Small after allegedly skipping a Nov. 16 meeting with his probation officer and failing to contact the court on three October days. Gnida also allegedly violated his probation by not receiving outpatient therapy since July 28, not proving he's attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and not completing 200 hours of community srvice at a clinic for closed-head injuries.

    Thursday, Small ordered Gnida to appear Jan. 5 for a hearing over whether he violated probation. If Small rules he did, she could return Gnida to jail for three months to close out the maximum one-year sentence.

    Gnida's release from jail two months early last summer frustrated Small, who acknowledged the decision to free Gnida early because of good behavior rested with the Oakland County Sheriff's Department.

    "I sentenced him to nine months, and I felt he should serve it," she told the Detroit Free Press days before Gnida's early release. "The crime this man committed -- the suffering he caused -- is very serious. It's frustrating. But the jail is following the law, and I understand that."

    The June 1997 wreck has Mnatsakanov paralyzed on his left side and restricted to a wheelchair. Konstantinov has undergone physical, speech and occupational therapy in Detroit and Florida, but has lost much of his sense of balance and short-term memory.

    Fetisov recovered in time to play for Detroit in 1997-98 and retired in June after the Red Wings won their second consecutive Stanley Cup. He is now an assistant with the New Jersey Devils.

    Gnida has forfeited the $2,000 surety bond he posted when he was initially arraigned in October 1997.

    © 1998 SportsLine USA, Inc. All rights reserved

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