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Man sentenced for high-speed chase near Lake George

Duane Bessler's 50-acre field was full of deep ruts after a high speed chase took a turn through his farmyard in the summer of 2009. Bessler was awarded $2,732 in restitution Monday by a district court judge. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)1 / 2
David Michael Lee2 / 2

A Hubbard County farmer will get his ruined 2009 crop field reimbursed by the career criminal who led a posse of squad cars on a high speed chase through it early one summer morning.

Duane Bessler, wife Kristi and family were jolted out of bed at 2:30 a.m. June 26, 2009, when David Michael Lee, now 52, and a companion roared through Bessler's newly seeded clover, alfalfa and wheat field near Lake George at speeds reaching 105 mph in a stolen pickup truck.

The 50-acre field was reduced to deep tire tracks after it was torn up during the chase.

Monday Judge Paul Rasmussen sentenced Lee to separate sentences of 28 and 25 months, while ordering him to make restitution in the amount of $2,732. Of that amount, $2,224 will go to Bessler and $508 will go to Hubbard County to pay for damage to a squad car incurred during the multi-county chase.

Bessler, who has attended some of Lee's court hearings, was not in court Monday to hear the news he was anticipating.

In a plea deal, two counts of fleeing officers were dismissed and are pending in Clearwater County.

"What they do with it is up to them," Hubbard County Attorney Don Dearstyne told the court of the Clearwater County charges. Hubbard County wanted to ensure Bessler was reimbursed, along with the squad car damage, he said.

While Clearwater and Hubbard counties worked on separate plea deals in 2009, Lee was inadvertently released from jail and missed a court date in November 2009 after rejecting the offers. Lee was recaptured and has spent two years in jail since. That time served will be more than enough to fulfill the sentence he was handed down Monday.

His legal troubles aren't over. He will be transported to Clearwater County, then to South Dakota to serve a lengthy prison term there.

The chase began somewhere near White Earth and went through Mahnomen and Clearwater counties as officers entered the pursuit. Hubbard County authorities joined the chase when it entered the northern part of that county on Highway 200.

It continued eastward to U.S. Highway 71, past the Bessler farm. Duane Bessler believes it ended up in his field when officers east of his farm placed "stop sticks," the spiked strips that puncture tires, just beyond his farm at the junction of County Roads 91 and 92, to head off the stolen vehicle. Instead, the pickup veered through his farmyard.

At least three of the deputies forgot the stop sticks had also been laced across Besslers' driveway and drove over them on the way out of the field. Three wreckers had to be brought in to tow the casualties.

Lee has been convicted of a litany of crimes spanning nine Minnesota counties.

He has been a vocal presence in the courtroom, challenging attorneys and the judge on each nuance of his plea deal and the charges, rattling off statute numbers and procedural rules like an attorney.

He pled guilty to Criminal Damage to Property, Driving After Cancellation and the Failure to Appear.

"Good things come to those that wait," Kristi Bessler said Tuesday. "What else can you say?"

But she added that she doubts the check would be in the mail any time soon.

Sarah Smith

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

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