The two men charged for landing a floatplane on a lake to catch a close-up glimpse of the Ryder Cup in Chaska have had their cases dismissed, and two other fans similarly charged with taking to the lake in a canoe during the international golf tournament are pursuing trials in their petty misdemeanors cases.
The Piper single-engine airplane gently rippled Lake Hazeltine on Oct. 2 near the 10th green during the final round between the U.S. and European squads at Hazeltine National.
Citing in a court filing six weeks later the "unlikelihood of success at trial," the Carver County attorney's office dismissed the petty misdemeanor charge against plane passenger James D. Render, 64, of Wayzata. The case against pilot Dean S. Johnson, 60, of Chanhassen, was also thrown out.
"My understanding is the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] gave inconsistent information about whether the plane could land on the lake and whether they'd be in FAA violation," Dave Hunt, criminal division manager for the county attorney's office, said Monday. "It was unclear whether the city could prohibit planes from landing on the lake."
A message left for an FAA spokeswoman seeking an update on the agency's inquiry was not returned.
Defense attorney Andrew Birrell, whose firm represented the two men, said the prosecution made "the right decision."
Police Chief Scott Knight said a city ordinance prohibited any activity on the lake during the event. The pilot claimed he didn't know the lake was off limits.
Charges against the canoeists are proceeding, however, with trials scheduled in early February for Ryan J. Hough, 34, of Waconia, and Craig J. Bardal, 31, of Chaska.
Bardal said Monday that he's unwilling to pay the fine. "It's kind of the principle of the matter. I don't feel that Ryan and I did anything wrong." He also wanted to make it clear that even though the lake has no public access, "we had permission from a private landowner" to get on the lake.
Hough and Bardal were arraigned last week and have pleaded not guilty. If convicted, they could each be fined as much as $300.