Court Update: Motions Argued on Behalf of Water Protector Arrested Oct 17 2016

A Lakota Sioux man from Standing Rock who was arrested on 10/27/16 while peacefully protesting against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline next to his home appeared in court today. He is presently charged with Engaging in a Riot and Causing a Public Nuisance.

His attorney argued the following motions in court before Judge Reich:

  • Motion to Dismiss for lack of Probable Cause to make the arrest on these charges (Engaging in a Riot and Causing a Public Nuisance);
  • Motion to Dismiss the Public Nuisance since the charge is Unconstitutionally Vague;
  • Motion for a Bill of Particulars;
  • Motion to Compel the Deposition of the Arresting Officer;
  • Motion to Dismiss and for Sanctions for Failure to Comply with Discovery and
  • Motions in Limine.

Three different police officers have claimed that they were the one that arrested this water protector, at three different times spanning two hours, and at two different locations a mile apart. All three officers charged him with different charges. This appeared to trouble the Court – just as it has troubled his defense attorney.

Judge Reich held an extensive hearing in which he agreed with the defense arguments that the state had failed to establish probable cause. He found that a general affidavit discussing the actions of 147 people arrested on 10/27/16, which did not name this water protector as having done any specific illegal action, was inadequate to confer probable cause to make the arrest. He further found that the affidavit’s failure to allude to any actions in which this water protector allegedly engaged further established a lack of probable cause to arrest him.

Although Judge Reich indicated he would probably not find that the Causing a Public Nuisance statute was void for vagueness, he ordered the prosecution to respond to the defense’s Motion for a Bill of Particulars and to state specifically what section of the statute the state claimed the water protector violated.

The Court also ordered that the state answer defendant’s Interrogatories within fourteen days from today’s date.

Finally, he ordered that the state let the defense know within 14 days when they would produce the requested witnesses to be deposed by the defense attorney.

Although not the outright dismissal we had hoped for, the Court’s orders can only be viewed as a victory.:

  • The state must articulate specific facts alleging the specific acts of this water protector which gave law enforcement probable cause to arrest him.
  • The state is required to produce witnesses for their depositions, after three previous unsuccessful attempts by the defense to take their depositions.
  • Requiring that the arresting officer answer interrogatories.
  • Evidence admitted at trial must be limited to establishing the actions of this water protector and cannot be extraneous to the events of 10/27/16 that led to his arrest.

The Court reserved ruling on most of the defense’s motions in limine.

Unless this case is dismissed (or if only one of the two charges is dismissed) trial is scheduled for 1/23/18 at the Morton County Courthouse.