Off-roaders Jailed in Wetland Damage and Hunter Harassment Case
Sending a stern warning to all off-road drivers, a Crow Wing County District Court judge recently sentenced two men to jail time for their involvement in damaging a state forest last September.
Anthony Portz, 25, Riverton, and Joseph Bosaaen, 20, Deerwood, were each sentenced to 30 days in jail and ordered to pay $645 in fines. Their sentences were stayed for 60 days on condition that they serve the jail time, pay their fines and have no similar violations for one year.
Conservation Officer Karl Hadrits of Crosby said, "To see this kind of real jail time and fine imposed on the same set of misdemeanor charges is quite significant, especially in a natural resource case."
Hadrits noted something else unusual was that Matthew Norton, an attorney from the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, advocated the case.
"He had close contact with the prosecutor’s office in the case," Hadrits said. “He addressed the court when they pled guilty and again at the sentencing hearing, as did the prosecutor and I. If it wasn't for Mr. Norton’s involvement, I don't think we would have received the penalty we did."
Hadrits noted the $645 in fines and jail time was in addition to the approximately $1,200 in civil fines and restitution that Portz and Bosaaen haven't appealed and must pay, and the original $105 in fines they received for the first incident that they already paid. "So the ticket for the whole event on each guy cost about two grand and a month in jail," Hadrits said.
The charges were the result of an investigation by Hadrits, which was initiated by a complaint from some duck hunters during the 2003 waterfowl opener on Sept. 27. The duck hunters contacted Hadrits after videotaping mud truckers repeatedly driving through the lake bed and around the lakeshore area of Flanders Lake in the Crow Wing State Forest. Portz, Bosaaen, Mitchall Dean Buss, 22, Aitkin, and Joseph Paul Bednarczyk, 24, Crosby, operated the mud trucks. Buss and Bednarczyk are scheduled for a jury trail on March 18.
Hadrits ticketed each mud truck operator and advised them of numerous laws that they violated, including hunter harassment, driving off-trail in a state forest, driving on a snowmobile trail, operating in the unfrozen bed of public waters, and no off-road vehicle registration. A few hours after the incident with the duck hunters, the same individuals heavily damaged the wetlands. The drivers were again contacted and confessed to doing the damage.
The Minnesota Legislature passed a law last year restricting off-highway vehicle use in wetlands such as shallow and deep marshes, shallow open water and bogs. The law requires violators to pay restitution for damage to wetlands on both private and public lands.