Press Release: Dion Ortiz Reaches Non-Cooperating Plea Agreement, 1 Charge Dropped –Recommendation of Up to 3 Years

Mandan, ND: Dion Ortiz appeared in federal court in Bismarck on July 17 for a change of plea hearing as per the terms of a non-cooperating agreement with prosecutors.

Water Protector Dion Ortiz (in tie) with attorney and family prior to his change of plea hearing in Bismarck on July 17, 2018

Dion had been charged with Civil Disorder and Use of Fire to Commit a Federal Felony Offense, arising from events of October 27, 2016. Under this plea agreement, the second charge – which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and the possibility of up to 15 years in prison – will be dropped entirely, and Ortiz will take responsibility for committing civil disorder.

Presiding Judge Daniel L. Hovland accepted the plea agreement by prosecutors and the defense. At the time of sentencing, the prosecutors have agreed to recommend up to three years, while the defense is free to argue for any sentence they wish. The judge has the authority to go as high as five years. This is a non-cooperating agreement relating only to Dion’s own actions and does not require any testimony or information about anyone else.

Dion and his legal team were facing monumental challenges including the prospect of trial with a hostile jury pool and the risk of a draconian 10-year prison sentence because of minimum sentencing.

In December of 2016, WPLC brought in an expert to poll the potential jurors to determine the extent of local bias against Water Protectors. The findings were clear: 77% of potential jurors in Morton County and 85% in Burleigh County had already decided that defendants were guilty and many potential jurors have close connections to law enforcement or the oil industry.

Dion is a member of the San Felipe Pueblo in New Mexico; he went to Standing Rock in September 2016 to participate in the prayer camp.

Dion’s parents and siblings traveled to Bismarck to be in attendance at today’s hearing, which was also attended by LaDonna Brave Bull Allard of the Standing Rock reservation and congregants from the local Unitarian Universalist church who came as “moral witnesses.”

At the conclusion of the hearing three U.S. marshals took Dion from the courtroom in Bismarck to the Burleigh-Morton Detention Center to await sentencing. The family gathered with supporters to express their love and support for Dion.

“My son is always helping out people in need; he just puts the sunshine on a cloudy day,” said his mother. “He will always be there to help out with anything that is asked of him, he has a big heart and puts others first,” his dad added. Dion’s sister said that Dion was known in the family “for always making jokes and bringing a smile to their faces,” and his little brother described Dion as “a caring person who wants to make everybody happy and warm their hearts.”

Information on how to support him during this difficult time is available on his Facebook support page: Justice4Dion.

He is represented by attorneys Robin V. Waters and Thomas Anthony Durkin of the Durkin & Roberts law firm in Chicago, and its pro bono arm, The Rerum Novarum Human and Civil Rights Center of Chicago, who will return to Bismarck for his sentencing hearing, currently scheduled for October 22.

“We think this was a fair resolution under the circumstances, especially in light of the 10-year minimum sentence that would have been imposed if Dion had been convicted of the second charge,” Durkin said. “We look forward to being able to present an enormous amount of mitigation at the time of his sentencing hearing.”

This agreement comes shortly after the sentencing of another Water Protector with federal charges: Red Fawn Fallis was sentenced to 57 months, to be followed by three years of federal supervision. Rattler (Michael Markus) will be sentenced on September 27. Water Protector Legal Collective is also currently handling 22 state cases that are still open and proceeding to trial, and another six cases being appealed.


June 13, 2017
Water Protector Legal Collective


The Water Protector Legal Collective would like to help answer questions and resolve warrants for those Water Protectors who have been issued warrants in North Dakota. Approximately 126 warrants have been issued on original cases filed where Water Protectors do not have legal representation yet or where new charges have been re-filed by the Morton County State’s Attorney.

Please contact the Water Protector Legal Collective at (701) 566-9108 if you have any questions or would like to obtain free attorney representation for your case. WPLC will need your updated contact information and any information regarding warrants and your case specifically.

Through the North Dakota Courts website anyone can search for their name for warrants and case updates as well on the courts’ Register of Actions at just click proceed and select the county, this will narrow your search then select criminal/traffic offenses.

It may be possible under North Dakota law to resolve a warrant without your appearance, particularly for misdemeanor offenses by assigning you attorney representation and filing a motion to quash your warrant. We need your involvement and cooperation for this. We want to provide accurate information and assist in resolving these free of charge, so please do not hesitate to call us for more information and so you can make a more informed choice. If you have any questions about having a warrant, particularly while traveling across state lines or international borders or whether you’re likely to be held or extradited, please call us at (701) 566-9108.

In addition, if you have a warrant, because of recent Supreme Court case law, this may give law enforcement probable cause to do invasive searches of you or your car. It does not give officers the right to interview or question you at all. Invoke your right to be silent. Invoke your right to counsel or ask if you are being detained and ask if are free to leave without answering questions or consenting to any searches.

If you have other questions or concerns regarding getting representation, continuances or related matters, please also feel free to call us at 701-566-9108.

If you are an indigenous person or facing felony charges and need assistance with travel and other resources to help in resolving your case please also call the Freshet Collective, at (701) 301-7511.

Please forward this and share widely.

Click here for PDF version: Warrants


Tips for Filling Out Your Public Defender Application

If you haven’t already, click here to for the application.

Indigent Defense Application Tips:

In General:
– Do not leave any question blank. If the answer is Ø (zero), enter ‘Ø’. If the answer is ‘not applicable’, enter ‘n/a’ or ‘not applicable’. If the question is asking for a number value, write Ø (zero). Writing ‘not applicable’ or ‘n/a’ for a value question may lead to the application being rejected. If there are multiple answer areas, make sure that each one has some answer (Ø or n/a) in it.
– Err on the side of providing more detail than you think may be required.
– Do not cross or X out any questions or sections, or make modifications to the questions as they are written on the form.

Part A:
For mailing address: list an address where you are confident that you will receive mail – best case somewhere that mail could be forwarded/delivered to you at Standing Rock if you are planning to be here for a while. This does not have to be your permanent address.

Part B:
-If you do currently receive public assistance or government/welfare benefits of any kind, note them here. If you receive benefits, this will increase the likelihood that you will qualify for appointed counsel.
-If you receive out-of-state public assistance or food support that is called something other than what is listed on the form, write it in or check the box for the benefit most similar to what you receive, and make a note stating where you receive it and what it’s called there.
-If you are filling in the form out of custody and have access to documentation that you receive government assistance, include any available documentation. It’s worth the additional effort.

Parts C and D:
-If you are filling in Ø or n/a for income or asset questions, add a note of explanation. If there is no space in the form, use an asterisk and make a note in the margin.
–I was recently diagnosed with a chronic medical condition and did not receive accommodations, so I quit.
–I have used up my unemployment benefits and my application for SSI is pending. [income]
–I do not own a house or land, and I drove here in my 1985 pickup truck (value: $1) with all of my personal belongings, none of which have any resale value. [assets]

Part E:
List any person to whom you regularly give material support, even if you do not claim that person as a dependent, and regardless of how small or informal the support might be. (Example: $20 cash bimonthly to adult grandson)

Part F:
Do not ignore this question!
Candidly list debts, ailments, or other obstacles that limit your income and/or access to liquid funds. [Examples: student debt, medical costs, layoffs, cost of living increases, outstanding taxes]

Part G:
-Sign with your own name, and write down the accurate date. Your application will not be considered complete without a date and signature.
-You do not have to fill out the race/ethnicity and military service questions – however we are recommending that you do so in this instance to eliminate any possible argument of incompleteness. If you choose to answer the race/ethnicity question, you are free to use whatever language you believe accurately reflects your identity
-Do not fill out any of the section marked ‘FOR COURT USE ONLY’

Submitting Your Application

Once you have filled out and signed your form, you can either scan it and email it to the Morton County Clerk at, or mail it to:

Clerk of Court
210 2nd Ave NW
Mandan, ND 58554