Following a three-day jury trial on April 26th an Aitkin County jury found retired district court Judge Robert Graff not guilty of trespassing in the DNR Savanna State Forest in Aitkin County.
The Aitkin County Attorney had charged Graff with driving a pickup truck from his home near McGregor, Minnesota, across state forest land to the shore of Bass Lake. The criminal complaint asserted that vehicle traffic was illegal at that place in the forest. Graff told Minnesota Lawyer the road is a 30 foot strip of land adjacent to his property that he has been using for 35 years.
The evidence submitted against Graff was a photograph taken by a mechanical trail camera posted by a DNR conservation officer. The officer testified at trial that she could identify Graff on the trail camera photo to be the person behind the wheel of the pickup truck. Graff was represented by Bloomington attorney Bill Peterson who argued that the game warden did not take the picture so her testimony was merely her interpretation of the photograph which the jury could determine for itself.
“Trail cameras often snap random pictures that are blurred, as here, so positive identification claimed by DNR is not possible,” said Peterson. The jury agreed and acquitted Graff, who did not need to testify. The defense did not put on any witnesses, Peterson said.
“We are gratified that the jury concluded that the trail camera photograph did not prove what DNR alleged and that it exonerated Judge Graff,” said Peterson.