Judge dismisses charges against 3 Dakota Access protesters
Feb. 18, 2017
MANDAN, N.D. (AP) — A judge has dismissed criminal trespass charges against three Dakota Access oil pipeline protesters halfway through their trial, ruling that the prosecutor failed to prove the legal elements needed to secure convictions.
Lawyers who were in the courtroom Friday told the Bismarck Tribune (http://bit.ly/2kzZmMZ ) that Judge Allan Schmalenberger ruled that the prosecutor failed to show that the land was posted as no-trespassing or that the protesters had been asked by an authorized person to leave. At least one of those elements is required to prove criminal trespass.
The three protesters were among 22 people arrested at a construction site near Almont Sep. 13.
A jury was picked and the prosecution put five highway patrolmen on the stand as the trial began Friday morning. After that, defense attorneys asked the judge to throw out the case.
Kent Morrow, who represented one of the women charged, told the newspaper that the troopers testified to people being on private property, but not about anyone with authority over the property telling them to leave.
"The judge said the law and statute is pretty clear," Morrow said.
Morton County State's Attorney Brian Grosinger argued in court that the protesters should have known the land was private property.
"What I had argued to the judge was I could prove notice by circumstantial evidence," Grosinger told the newspaper. "By the circumstances surrounding — considering it was a construction site."
Bruce Nestor, a Minneapolis attorney who represents some protesters said he recently got three other trespass cases from the same day's protests dismissed on similar grounds. He said the state in Friday's case wasted the judge's time, the jury's time and the troopers' time.
Grosinger said he would work to prove notice more adequately in future trials.
Information from: Bismarck Tribune, http://www.bismarcktribune.com