Pipeline protester takes plea deal
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.”