AUSTIN -- The charges against a former Mower County Sheriff's deputy were dismissed Tuesday morning as Mower County residents filed into the justice center to report for jury duty.

A jury trial was set to begin for Ryan Chrz, 35.

"The case was dismissed because we had a critical witness who was unavailable for trial," said Rice County Attorney John Fossum, who handled the case for Mower County. "As such we were unable to prove our case beyond a reasonable doubt and the case was dismissed."

Chrz was charged in Mower County District Court with two counts of gross misdemeanor misconduct by a public officer and two counts of misdemeanor fifth-degree assault for an incident that was alleged to have occurred in January 2019 while Chrz was on duty. He had been on administrative leave, but retired from the Mower County Sheriff's Office on March 31, 2020, according to the county administration.

Chrz was represented by attorney Robert Paule.

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"Mr. Chrz is extremely pleased that he was fully vindicated in this case and he steadfastly maintained his innocence from the beginning," Paule said Tuesday afternoon. "This has been a long and difficult process for my client and his family and he is glad this matter is going to be put behind him."

A notice of defense was filed with court by Paule on July 15 citing that he and Chrz would argue that the force used in the incident was "authorized use of force" under Minnesota state statute.