Two men who took to a canoe to watch the Ryder Cup golf tournament in Chaska last fall have had the charges dismissed, joining two others who had their cases thrown out for accessing the same lake that weekend in a floatplane.
Ryan J. Hough, 34, of Waconia, and Craig J. Bardal, 32, of Chaska, had a trial in Carver County District Court set for Monday before the charges were dropped in connection with their Oct. 2 aquatic adventure on Lake Hazeltine.
Assistant County Attorney Dave Hunt said Wednesday his office chose not to pursue the charges after hearing from the pair’s attorney about evidence the defense intended to present at trial and uncovering “facts [that] developed after the citations” were issued.
Luke Heck, who represented his two friends for free, said the city of Chaska mistakenly thought it had the right to declare the lake off-limits during the golf tournament and neglected to go to the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for approval.
Police Chief Scott Knight said last fall that a city ordinance prohibited any activity on the lake during the event.
“The DNR indicated to Craig that that didn’t occur,” said Heck, whose practice is based on Fargo. “[City officials] just thought they could do it on their own.” Heck added that the city also inadequately notified the public about it declaring the lake off-limits.
In explaining late last year why the two were willing to either sink or swim in court, Bardal said that while the lake has no public access, “we had permission from a private landowner” to get on the water.
Hough said that in the time leading up to the dismissal, he and Bardal went through “months of case preparation, [the] prosecutor refusing to talk or reason with us [and] threats in court.”
The prosecution, Hough added, “didn’t seem to mind that the case against us was completely illegal and wack. ... They wanted us to shut up and pay up.”
If convicted, each could have been fined up to $300.
In late November, petty misdemeanor charges also were dismissed against the two men whose single-engine airplane gently rippled the lake near the 10th green during the final round between the U.S. and European squads at Hazeltine National.
In a court filing, prosecutors raised the “unlikelihood of success at trial” in the cases against passenger James D. Render, 64, of Wayzata, and pilot Dean S. Johnson, 60, of Chanhassen.