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Wings' Limo Driver Released

The limousine driver responsible for a crash that injured three Red Wings members was released from custody early Friday, hours after the city celebrated a second Stanley Cup championship.

Richard Gnida, 28, had been sentenced to nine months after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of driving with a suspended license. But the Oakland County Sheriff's Department decided to release him two months early for good behavior.

Earlier Thursday, 1.2 million fans swarmed downtown Detroit to pay tribute to the Wings' second consecutive Stanley Cup. Many carried signs of support for defenseman Vladimir Konstantinov and team masseur Sergei Mnataskanov both still recuperating from head injuries suffered in the June 13, 1997, accident.

Gnida was returning players Konstantinov and Viacheslav Fetisov and Mnatsakanov from a golf outing when the limousine he was driving ran off Woodward Avenue in Birmingham and slammed into a tree.

The accident came just six days after the Red Wings completed a four-game sweep of Philadelphia to win their first Stanley Cup since 1955. Fetisov recovered from lesser injuries and played this past season.

During his time in a medium-security community work camp, Gnida worked in the kitchen and stayed mainly to himself, Oakland County sheriff's Capt. Doug Eader has said.

At about 12:15 a.m. Friday, two people drove into the camp to retrieve Gnida. As they drove out, they held paper bags and T-shirts to the windows of the vehicle so he was not visible. Gnida made no comments to reporters assembled outside.

As part of his sentence, District Judge Kimberly Small has also ordered Gnida to perform 200 hours of community service. On June 23, Gnida is to report to officials at Greater Michigan Rehabilitation Services in Ann Arbor, a nonprofit organization that provides physical therapy for victims of closed-head injuries.

©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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