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Otter Tail County man charged with blocking only road to lake to take case to jury trial

FERGUS FALLS, Minn.--Richard Chodek, who erected a fence that is preventing public access to a west-central Minnesota lake, defended himself against the state of Minnesota on Friday, July 20, after being charged with 12 misdemeanors.

The Otter Tail County courthouse.
The Otter Tail County courthouse.

FERGUS FALLS, Minn.-Richard Chodek, who erected a fence that is preventing public access to a west-central Minnesota lake, defended himself against the state of Minnesota on Friday, July 20, after being charged with 12 misdemeanors.

His hope to have the charges against him dismissed will be delayed by at least a month. Both him and the state of Minnesota will have until Aug. 17 to present their written arguments before a date for the jury trial will be set, a judge decided in thecourt hearing in Fergus Falls on Friday.

According to Chodek, the statute of limitations on an easement near his property had expired after 40 years and he tried to get the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to purchase the driveway from him that provides the only public boat access to Jolly Ann Lake in Otter Tail County near the town of Ashby..

Chodek also says the road leading to the boat launch and a small parking lot isn't located where land records say it should be.

But after his offer to the DNR, Chodek said they "became hostile, threatening to turn it from an easement to the actual ownership from my land."

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From there, Chodek erected a fence and a sign which brought the charges and court hearings he's facing. One misdemeanor was a personal nuisance of obstructing a highway, and the other 11 counts are harassment charges for keeping people from using the 256-acre lake.

Despite the complaints and charges, Chodek remains strong in his response to those filing charges against him.

"We got a thousand lakes in Otter Tail, just go pick another lake," said Chodek.

He said this case should go no differently than a case he had before. He had criminal charges against him in 2016 when he put up a sign closing the road keeping deer hunters out of his 40 acres of farmland.

"I've been in court before with criminal charges against me that I blocked the road, that was kicked out. I don't see what's much different on these charges. There's more of them, but it's the same thing. I put a fence across the road. If it was thrown out once, then why are we even having this conversation in court now?" said Chodek.

Chodek feels this is a government infringement on property that he owns, and doesn't plan to back down.

"Here in America we have the privilege of owning land, and I have the government messing with my land. It would be different if it was just the farmer next door on a boundary dispute, but here I got the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources messing with me. That's not right," Chodek said.

Chodek could face up to $12,000 in fines and jail time if the charges are not dismissed in the jury trial.

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The Otter Tail County courthouse.
Richard Chodek of Ashby in west-central Minnesota has erected a fence and put up this sign that prevents public access to Jolly Ann Lake. Photo courtesy of Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

Related Topics: OTTER TAIL COUNTY
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