Water Protector Risks Re-Sentencing to Demand Her Right to be Heard in Court

Little Wind, whose name appears in court documents as MyKennah Leigh Lott, had her conviction upheld but gained the right to speak at a new sentencing hearing

(Bismarck, North Dakota) On January 15, 2019, the five-member panel of the North Dakota Supreme Court handed down their decision in State v. Lott, upholding the conviction while also agreeing that Little Wind, a Water Protector in the NoDAPL resistance at Standing Rock, should have had the opportunity to address the court at her sentencing hearing on April 12, 2018 in Morton County. Little Wind was convicted at a bench trial on that same day by Surrogate Judge David Nelson who found her guilty of the Class A misdemeanor charge of Preventing (her own) Arrest. Judge Nelson sentenced her to one day in jail; she received credit for time served, and was fined $750.

In his ruling Justice Jensen wrote that: “Nothing in the record indicates Lott was personally addressed and afforded the opportunity to speak on her behalf during the sentencing phase.” The ruling cites several North Dakota cases that articulate the right of those convicted in North Dakota to make an allocution statement at sentencing. Jensen wrote that “Lott received a reasonable sentence, but not the minimum allowable sentence and it is possible Lott may have received a lighter sentence had she been given the opportunity to allocute.”

In being remanded for re-sentencing Little Wind gains her sought-after principle, the right to address the court at sentencing, but also risks that whatever new sentence is imposed could be harsher. For Class A misdemeanors, the court could impose a penalty up to imprisonment for three hundred sixty days, a maximum fine of three thousand dollars, or both.

A new date for sentencing has not yet been scheduled,

Read the North Dakota Supreme Court ruling here