A Princeton man, who asserted that the state of Minnesota and Mille Lacs County were acting outside their legal authority during the 2010 bridge construction, has been convicted of three criminal charges.
On April 17 a jury in Mille Lacs County District Court found Kevin L. Gerrard, 49, guilty of failing to comply with a police officer, obstructing the legal process by interfering with a police officer and the detrimental operation of a vehicle within a right of way. A count of illegal dumping was dismissed. Gerrard had pleaded not guilty to all counts.
Gerrard was sentenced the same day as the jury handed down its verdict. Gerrard was given a 90-day jail sentence, but 88 days of the sentence were stayed for one year. That means that if Gerrard is law-abiding for the next year he will not have to serve jail time. He was also given credit for two days served in jail back in the summer of 2010. Gerrard was fined $300 and was placed on supervised probation for one year.
The charges against Gerrard stem from an incident on June 22, 2010, a day that Gerrard was protesting next to the construction site for the Highway 95 and Rum River Drive bridges and the roundabout. He contended that the state and county had no right to perform construction work on his land that was adjacent to, and part of, the road project. Both the state and county have easements that allowed for the construction.
Court records state that between June 21 and June 22, 2010, Gerrard placed a couch and a love seat along Highway 95 with “no trespassing” signs on them. One was directly behind a construction truck that prohibited the truck from being able to move. The couch and love seat were picked up and moved because they were in the right of way, records state. As were couch cushions and an entertainment center that were laying on the sidewalk and in the street near the intersection of Rum River Drive and Fifth Street North.
Gerrard called the police and filed a theft complaint regarding the removal of the couch and love seat, court records state. He then is accused of taking further action to hinder the project.
Court records allege that Gerrard drove a truck into the construction area along Highway 95 and Rum River Drive and left it parked in an area where construction crews and equipment were preparing to work. He then allegedly walked up and down the sidewalk on Rum River Drive with a cardboard sign stating the government was stealing his land.
Police Chief Brian Payne arrived on the scene and directed Gerrard to move the truck. When Gerrard refused, Payne threatened to have the truck towed. Gerrard then allegedly jumped inside the truck to prevent it from being towed because vehicles generally aren’t towed with people inside them.
Records suggest that Gerrard agreed to move the truck, but it got stuck in a hole. That’s when Gerrard allegedly drove a second truck into the construction area. A Minnesota Department of Transportation project manager arrived on the scene. So did a trooper with the Minnesota State Patrol. They joined Payne in trying to persuade Gerrard into allowing them to tow the vehicles for free, but to no avail.
Authorities called in All-Star Towing, but a mechanical problem prohibited the trucks from being towed. Hytech Auto was then called.
Court records state that while hooking up one of the vehicles to a tow truck, Gerrard stepped between the two vehicles in an attempt to keep the pickup from being moved. Police insisted he move, but he refused.
At this time, Gerrard was advised that he was subject to being placed under arrest, records state. Gerrard allegedly said he did not want to be arrested, but added that he was not moving his trucks. At that point, the state trooper put Gerrard under arrest.
He was booked into the Mille Lacs County Jail and released on $1,000 bail on June 23, 2010.
Gerrard requested a jury trial on Jan. 11, 2011. On April 16, a day before the jury trial was to begin, Gerrard filed a motion with the court stating he would represent himself at trial.
On Tuesday, a civil case filed by Gerrard and his wife Anita against the city of Princeton, Mille Lacs County and the state of Minnesota’s Department of Transportation appears to have been resolved. Judge Vicki Landwehr on April 6 took a motion for summary judgement under advisement. Landwehr issued an order in the case Monday and a judgement was issued Tuesday. The Union-Eagle will follow up on the civil case next week.