May 10, 2017
Ten more Water Protector cases have been dismissed by the Morton County State’s Attorney office on Tuesday, May 9, 2017. The State acknowledged that a reason for the dismissals was because they “cannot meet the elements of the offense as charged.”
The dismissed cases all stem from an October 22, 2016 mass arrest of over 120 Water Protectors, some of whom were rounded up by police while sitting and praying. 116 of the 120 individuals were arrested and charged with the same crimes: Criminal Trespass and Engaging in a Riot. However, the State’s Criminal Complaint provided few details regarding the conduct of any individual.
Water Protector Legal Collective Attorney Jacob Reisberg said: “The State of North Dakota waited far too long to dismiss these baseless charges. In an attempt to extract guilty pleas, the State is waiting to dismiss each case until the last minute before trial, which has created great hardship and uncertainty for many Water Protectors, particularly those living out-of-state who have to book travel to any appearances. No-DAPL Water Protectors withstood extreme violence from militarized police at Standing Rock and now the State admits that it cannot substantiate the alleged justification for that violence.”
Although the dismissal is a reprieve, it does not mean the cases are over. The State’s Attorney may attempt to refile charges, including more serious charges. WPLC staff attorneys Sandra Freeman, Sam Saylor and Andrea Carter, many WPLC Pro Hac Vice attorneys, and local North Dakota counsel are working together to determine how to best defend the next round of cases.
These ten dismissals follow dismissals of five other Water Protector cases from the first week of May that also arose from the October 22, 2016 mass arrest date. So far, no cases from that mass arrest have been brought to trial. Nevertheless, over 80 other cases from the October 22 date remain open and are set for trial in May and June.
If you are a Water Protector and need legal assistance, please call the Water Protector Legal Collective Hotline at (701) 566-9108. If you need travel assistance returning to North Dakota, contact the Freshet Collective at (605) 519-8180.