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Two men enter pleas in case of poaching, marijuana growing

Stephen Donald Battin Sr.1 / 2
Dennis Cook2 / 2

Two Twin Cities area men entered pleas Monday in a Hubbard County case that involved poaching deer and growing marijuana on leased hunting land.

Steven Battin, 61, of Big Lake, and Donald Cook, 61, of Bloomington, both testified Monday they were Vietnam vets suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Cook has a 100 percent service-related disability, he said.

It was unclear what relevance this had on the case, but the defendants' attorney stressed the fact both men were vets under psychiatric treatment.

Battin and Cook were arrested last fall after DNR Conservation Officers conducted a flyover near Badoura State Forest just before deer season on a tip that hunters in the vicinity were baiting deer.

In the process of the investigation, they discovered 42 pounds of marijuana growing on the property, leased to Battin.

Although Battin pled guilty to a Third Degree Controlled Substance crime, his testimony suggested he wasn't responsible for planting the marijuana at his hunting camp.

Larry Kimball, who represented both men, took Battin through questioning to establish a factual basis for the plea deal.

Kimball suggested Battin "should have known" about the pot since it was growing in the proximity of Battin's deer stands and equipment on the campsite.

"Should have," Battin admitted.

"And you're doing this to take advantage of a plea bargain?" Kimball queried his client.

Battin said yes.

He also pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of harassing another hunter last fall. Charges of Transporting Illegal Big Game and shooting a deer out of season will be dismissed.

Cook pled to the Transporting charge. The drug charge against him will be dismissed.

Kimball asked Battin if he'd acknowledge there were "two very different versions of what happened" at the camp last fall. Battin again responded affirmatively.

Conservation officers Sam Hunter and Colleen Adam testified they brought the Paul Bunyan Drug Task Force and Hubbard County authorities into the case once they discovered the pot.

Kimball filed motions during an earlier omnibus hearing contesting the legality of the search and seizure. While those motions were pending, a plea offer was entered into.

The men will be sentenced May 23.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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