Pipe­line pro­tester takes plea deal

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NEWS -

BIS­MARCK, N.D. — A North Dakota judge on Wed­nes­day ac­cepted a plea agree­ment that spares for­mer Green Party pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Jill Stein any jail time for protest­ing the Dakota Ac­cess oil pipe­line nearly a year ago.

Judge Gail Hagerty ac­cepted a deal in which Stein pleaded guilty to mis­de­meanor crim­i­nal mis­chief and pros­e­cu­tors dropped a mis­de­meanor crim­i­nal tres­pass charge.

Stein will be on un­su­per­vised pro­ba­tion for about six months and must pay $250 in fees. She had faced a max­i­mum pun­ish­ment of two months in jail and $3,000 in fines.

Stein and her at­tor­ney did not re­spond to phone and email mes­sages seek­ing com­ment.

Mor­ton County As­sis­tant State’s At­tor­ney Brian Grosinger also did not re­spond to mes­sages seek­ing com­ment on why pros­e­cu­tors chose not to take the case to trial.

Stein was charged af­ter spray-paint­ing a bull­dozer at a con­struc­tion site in Septem­ber. She said in March that it was “very prob­lem­atic to have this hang­ing over my head” and that she wanted the case re­solved. She also said she was will­ing to go jail but that it was “not my pref­er­ence, ob­vi­ously.”

Stein’s run­ning mate in the 2016 elec­tion, Ajamu Baraka, who faced sim­i­lar charges, got the same deal Wed­nes­day.

The $3.8 bil­lion pipe­line, built by Texas-based En­ergy Trans­fer Part­ners, on June 1 be­gan mov­ing North Dakota oil through South Dakota and Iowa to a dis­tri­bu­tion point in Illi­nois, though Amer­i­can In­dian tribes who fear en­vi­ron­men­tal harm are still fight­ing the project in court. Protests in North Dakota by tribes and en­vi­ron­men­tal groups be­tween Au­gust 2016 and Fe­bru­ary re­sulted in 761 ar­rests.

Stein was at a pipe­line con­struc­tion site in south­ern North Dakota on Sept. 6, where au­thor­i­ties said equip­ment was van­dal­ized. She is­sued a state­ment at the time ad­mit­ting to spray-paint­ing the words “I ap­prove this mes­sage” on the blade of a bull­dozer to protest that it “had been used to de­stroy sa­cred burial sites of the Stand­ing Rock Sioux.”

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