A man who says he wants to enjoy his property in Marshall County is now in the middle of a legal battle with the director of the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) John Cooper, who is facing criminal charges related to threats made in the dispute.

The man pressed charges against Cooper after the two argued over the property in the South Sauty Creek Resort area. The man who recently purchased land near Cooper's property said he wants to remain anonymous for now because, at the time he pressed charges, he had no idea Cooper was the director of ALDOT. He spoke to 1819 News after seeing the story online.

The complainant told 1819 News he called the Marshall County Sheriff's Office after Cooper blocked him from his property and threatened to shoot him.

"Then he said, 'You're not worth the cost of a bullet. I'll just whoop your fat ass," the complainant claimed.

The neighbor claims a gravel road to his property is the point of contention between the two. It's part of Joe's Parkway, near Guntersville Lake.

"The family we bought this property from has been using this easement for well over 20 years to access the property," he said.

Although he said the easement had been deeded to him and Cooper's wife had signed a conveyance on the property, Cooper continued telling him he could not use the road to get to his land.

"My wife and I purchased property two months ago adjoining his property," the neighbor said. "And since he was unable to purchase the property himself, he has decided to make things difficult for us to access the property."

After some back and forth between the neighbor and Cooper, the neighbor said eventually, Cooper came to him and wanted to settle the matter civilly. He said he offered to trade the land with other property Cooper owned. The neighbor plans to build a house on the property, so he declined the offer.

It all came to a head on Sunday, June 4, when the neighbor said he was clearing part of his property. He said one of his friends who was helping him was stopped by Cooper and told he was trespassing. When the neighbor visited the site, he said Cooper was blocking the roadway with a UTV. The neighbor said there is another access point to the property where Cooper has a gate. When he asked him to move the gate, he claimed Cooper refused.

"I said, 'Well, you can't keep me from your property," the neighbor said. "I said, 'I'm either going to access it from here or the gate's coming down."

The two continued to argue over the gate, and that's when the neighbor said Cooper threatened him. While he said it is unfortunate he had to press charges against Cooper, the neighbor said an attorney advised him to do so.

"He [the attorney] told me I really needed to go file a report because he can't get away with this," said the neighbor. "So, that's what I did. Then I started seeing he was the head of the DOT, but until then I did not know that. I knew that he worked for Alabama DOT but did not know he was the head of it."

The neighbor said he hoped the land dispute would be decided quickly so his family could enjoy the land they purchased.

"I'm not trying to take anything that doesn't belong to me, I'm not trying to hurt anybody," he added. "We bought land, and we want to enjoy it."

Following the verbal altercation, Cooper was charged with misdemeanor harassment/intimidation.

RELATED: ALDOT director John Cooper arrested in Marshall County for harassment; UPDATE: Cooper attorney responds

Attorney George Barnett, Cooper's personal attorney, sent a statement following Cooper's arrest:

"My office represents Mr. John R. Cooper in his personal capacity. This morning, Mr. Cooper directed me to file a Complaint for Declaratory Judgment cause of action in Marshall County Circuit Court regarding a land dispute with a neighbor who is falsely claiming an easement on Mr. Cooper's property. The clearest legal path to resolving this matter is to have the Court determine whether an easement exists, and we look forward to resolving this matter."

1819 News has reached out to Barnett about the claims made by the neighbor.

To connect with the author of this story or to comment, email erica.thomas@1819news.com.

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