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Eagle Bend man cleared in zebra mussel case

Mark Ratajesak of Eagle Bend was found not guilty of transporting zebra mussels into Lake Irene in Douglas County.

After a one-day trial on December 13, a jury deliberated for about 20 minutes before returning with the not guilty verdict.

Ratajesak, owner of Dock Doctors, was charged in November 2011 under a new law that prohibits people from moving a piece of lake equipment that has aquatic invasive species such as zebra mussels attached to it.

In charging Ratajesak with a misdemeanor, authorities with the Department of Natural Resources claimed that he removed a boat lift from a lake and placed it in Lake Irene on June 8, 2011 without completely cleaning it of zebra mussels.

Zebra mussels were discovered clinging on rocks in the lake in October 2011.

Ratajesak's attorney, Chris Karpan, said the science of trying to link the zebra mussels from the boat lift to the ones that were found on the rocks four months later was a stretch. He described the charges as unfair and heavy handed.