Barney Lakner, convicted in 2007 BWCAW rampage, faces sexual assault charge

Barney James Lakner, the Ely man who fired guns and threatened people in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in 2007, and who was convicted in 2015 of fleeing and ramming a state conservation officer on a snowmobile while illegally in the f...

Barney James Lakner


Barney James Lakner, the Ely man who fired guns and threatened people in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in 2007, and who was convicted in 2015 of fleeing and ramming a state conservation officer on a snowmobile while illegally in the federal wilderness, is facing a court hearing next week on charges that he sexually assaulted a woman in his cabin on Fall Lake.

Lakner, 48, is scheduled to appear in State District Court in Two Harbors on Nov. 8 on a felony charges of third degree sexual conduct, being a felon in possession of a handgun and being a felon in possession of ammunition. Each charge carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and/or a $30,000 fine.

According to a criminal complaint filed in Lake County in June and obtained by the News Tribune Monday, a woman reported leaving a gathering of friends at about 8 p.m. on June 14 and driving with Lakner to his cabin. She said she was served a drink she believes was mixed with something else that made her woozy.

"The victim informed deputy Kilpela that the defendant made mixed alcoholic drinks for both of them and that her drink tasted strange. The victim then indicated that her perception became blurred and she experienced a state that was like her mind was outside her body and she had difficulty controlling her body," the complaint states. The victim said the feeling was nothing like being drunk.


The victim said she woke up around 1 a.m. on the 15th to find Lakner sexually assaulting her in a bed. Her clothes had been removed below her waist.

The victim said Lakner left the room and she was able to hide in the bathroom and use her cellphone to text people for help. She left the cabin and hid in the woods, and told deputies that she feared for her life as she waited for a friend to pick her up.

The first call reporting the incident was received by Lake County just after 2:30 a.m. on June 15. Deputies interviewed the victim, obtained a search warrant for Lakner's cabin and confiscated beverage containers, sheets and other bedding and a Ruger P94 semiautomatic handgun and "a significant amount of ammunition."

Deputies were unable to locate Lakner at the cabin, his home or his job for six days following the alleged incident. A warrant was issued for Lakner's arrest on June 21. He was jailed but posted bail that had been set at $150,000 on June 26.

Lakner's attorney, Gordon Pineo of Virginia, could not be reached Monday evening for comment.

The story was first reported on the CityPages website Monday morning. Ely is in St. Louis County but Fall Lake, just outside Ely, is in Lake County.

In June of 2015, it took a jury just an hour to find Lakner guilty of six charges against him, including a felony count of fleeing a peace officer in a motor vehicle while on Basswood Lake in the BWCAW.

Judge Michael Cuzzo ordered Lakner to serve three years of probation and 180 days in jail for leading conservation officers on a high-speed snowmobile pursuit across Basswood Lake in January 2014. The judge also barred Lakner from entering the Boundary Waters while on probation and imposed a $500 fine.


"Mr. Lakner, at some point you need to grow up," Cuzzo said. "You're too old to be doing childish acts."

According to trial testimony and court documents, Lakner and a friend, Edward Zupancich, attempted to elude three Minnesota Department of Natural Resources officers in the wilderness area. Motorized vehicles are banned by state and federal law in the Boundary Waters.

When approached by the officers near the south end of Basswood Lake, Lakner completed a 180-degree turn, rammed an officer's sled and fled toward Canada over the dangerously thin ice and open waters of Goose Narrows, according to testimony.

Authorities said the chase ended only when one officer jumped from his moving sled to tackle Zupancich and another officer grabbed hold of Lakner's backpack, forcing him to stop.

Under terms of the probation set by Cuzzo, Lakner will automatically face a 13-month prison sentence if a judge now finds he violated the terms of his parole, such as possessing a gun.

The snowmobiling incident was the second felony for Lakner in the BWCAW. He previously served a three-year prison sentence after leading a group of young men, ages 16-20, who terrorized campers - also on Basswood Lake - on a drunken spree in August 2007, firing semiautomatic firearms randomly into the night and shooting off professional-grade fireworks, as well as damaging a federal water-level gauging station.

Some victims of the rampage say they feared for their lives, and had nightmares for months after, when Lakner and his group fired the guns near their campsites, yelling profanities and threatening to rape and kill campers.

Lakner faced 22 different charges but avoided a trial by pleading guilty to five charges, including three felonies. He was sentenced to a mandatory minimum term of three years in a state prison but was discharged from the state prison system in August 2011.

John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at
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