Atwater, Minn., man charged with damaging crops enters plea
WILLMAR -- Dale Duaine Binger, 43, Atwater, pleaded guilty Monday to an amended felony charge of first-degree property damage for damaging the crops in corn and soybean fields with a vehicle this summer near Atwater.
As part of a plea agreement in Kandiyohi County District Court, the charge was elevated from misdemeanor level and a second-degree arson charge will be dismissed. Binger will be sentenced May 1.
The charges were filed after July 24, when Kandiyohi County sheriff's deputies were called to a rural Atwater address regarding a vehicle on fire in a cornfield. The vehicle was engulfed in fire when the first deputy arrived.
A citizen reported that there was damage to another field in the area and he had observed the vehicle in the field catch fire. The fire was extinguished by the Atwater Fire Department and law enforcement determined the vehicle belonged to Binger and an Atwater woman.
Binger was located in a nearby soybean field, talking gibberish about radios and people in trees. He had orange spray paint on his shoulders, hands, shorts and around his body. Deputies also found orange paint on the burned vehicle.
Deputies located the Atwater woman and informed her that the vehicle had been burned. She mentioned their daughter had been bothered by members of a religious group and that the family had loaded up their valuables and financial documents in the Jeep -- the vehicle that burned -- and were going to leave town for a while.
One of the deputies tracked the vehicle's tracks through multiple corn and soybean fields, farm yards and marshlands southwest of Atwater.