A retiree who tussled with a man half his age who was using foul language in a restaurant was sentenced to probation, but he got a thumbs-up from attorneys and others who sympathized with his motives.

Bill Stevenson, 79, of Lake Elmo (search), pleaded guilty to one count of disorderly conduct Tuesday in Ramsey County District Court, and judge Paulette Flynn placed him on three months of probation.

"I think I could've won my case by going to trial, with a sympathetic jury," said Stevenson. "I've had over 30 calls and letters and e-mails, and I've not had one negative call. They're all on my side."

Stevenson and another retired 3M (search) engineer, Sten Gerfast, 74, confronted the man July 15 at Bruegger's Bagels in the Sun Ray Shopping Center (search).

The two retirees were going over a design Gerfast had invented when Jesse Tabor, of Minneapolis, entered the bakery with his 13-year-old daughter.

In an interview after the incident, Tabor, 40, said he was talking on his cell phone with a man whose home he was remodeling and said he didn't recall cursing. But Stevenson and Gerfast remember it differently.

"He was using the F-word against this guy he was talking to," Stevenson said. "There was an argument on the phone. The third time he walked by our booth where Mr. Gerfast and I were trying to design something, Mr. Gerfast said to me, 'Should I do something about it?' I thought a moment and thought, 'What can you do in a case like this?' I didn't know what you could do."

So Gerfast, of Mendota Heights, decided to confront Tabor. He tapped him on the shoulder and asked him to take his call outside, Stevenson said, but Tabor said something like, "This is none of your business."

"It was only when he used the words, 'you f-ing bastard' — it was yelled across the bagel shop so everybody heard it — that I started walking up to him," Stevenson said. "Then he said 'you f-ing a-hole" and that really bothered me. I've been in lots of different places, but when I heard that kind of stuff coming in my hometown, I thought, 'Somebody's got to do something.' "

Stevenson grabbed the phone from Tabor and the two men played tug-of-war for a few seconds. Stevenson realized it was a dumb thing to do, let go of the phone and Tabor "went sailing across the floor," Stevenson said.

The three men with charged with disorderly conduct. Gerfast was acquitted in a court trial last month.

Tabor, who has previous convictions for criminal sexual conduct and drug possession, failed to appear at a September hearing and a bench warrant was issued for him. Attempts to reach him Tuesday were unsuccessful.

Stevenson claimed Tabor "mocked me about being an old man."

"I just sat there and drank my coffee," said Stevenson. "I thought, 'You can think what you want, mister, but a couple of senior citizens stood up to you, and we ought to get a little bit more respect.' "