Sponsored By
An organization or individual has paid for the creation of this work but did not approve or review it.



Court orders new trial for former police chief

WEST CONCORD — A former West Concord police chief who was found guilty of criminal charges last year has had his conviction reversed by the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

Robert Wallace Utech, 53, of West Concord, appealed his convictions for mistreatment of animals, misconduct of a police officer and reckless discharge of a firearm in a municipality. He claimed in the petition, filed Sept. 24, 2009, that his right to a unanimous jury verdict was violated, according to court records.

Utech was investigated in 2007 after he was accused of shooting four cats that belonged to a West Concord resident. He admitted to killing about 20 feral cats inside city limits using a .22-caliber rifle. A former West Concord police officer testified that Utech once chased a cat down Main Street and shot at it.

Utech resigned as police chief in August 2007 as part of a settlement with the city.

He was convicted of the criminal charges by a jury on March 12, 2009.


In his appeal, Utech claimed there wasn't enough evidence to sustain the convictions for animal mistreatment and official misconduct.

The appeals court recently concluded that the evidence was sufficient to sustain the convictions; however, because the state "presented evidence of separate and distinct acts to prove the elements of the charged offenses and did not elect on which act it relied for conviction, the district court's refusal to provide unanimity instruction violated Utech's right to a unanimous verdict."

The case was sent back to Dodge County District Court for a new trial.

Utech also claimed that the district court erred by ordering him to pay $765.90 in restitution to the daughter of a man who owned several cats.

Utech argued that the award was inappropriate because the jury did not specifically find that he had injured or killed any of the man's cats. The state agreed because "there is no way to determine from the record whether any of (the man's) cats were the subject of either of those counts."

The court ruled that the restitution award cannot stand.

What To Read Next
Get Local