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Judge convicts on one count in last scheduled DAPL trial

Katrina Silk
Katrina Silk, middle, sits in a Morton County courtroom on Tuesday, Feb. 5, during her bench trial on charges related to her arrest while protesting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline south of Mandan on Oct. 22, 2016. Mike McCleary / Bismarck Tribune

BISMARCK - What may be the last trial related to the Dakota Access Pipeline protests ended in a mixed verdict on Tuesday, Feb. 5.

South Central District Judge David Reich convicted Katrina Silk of misdemeanor physical obstruction of a governmental function. He acquitted her on four other misdemeanor charges related to activities in a pasture along the pipeline route on Oct. 22, 2016, when officers arrested dozens of people who claimed to be on a prayer walk.

Reich ordered Silk to pay $325 in court fees and gave her a 60-day deferred imposition, meaning if she stays out of trouble in that time, the crime will be taken off her record.

Defense attorney Amanda Harris, who has handled many of the DAPL protest cases, said Silk's trial is probably the last one. The first protest-related trial was in December 2016.

South Central Judicial District trial court administrator Donna Wunderlich said Silk was the last defendant of the active protest cases scheduled for trial.


Two other cases are open, including one remanded from the North Dakota Supreme Court and a warrant which a defendant seeks to quash, according to Wunderlich.

Morton County prosecutors also recently dismissed about 45 inactive warrants for arrest, leaving 42 other warrants yet inactive. Two other cases are on appeal.

Of the 838 state-level criminal cases, 790 are closed or have satisfied conditions of their deferred impositions.

Most defendants were charged with trespassing-, obstruction- or riot-related offenses. Most cases were dismissed or resolved by plea agreements or pretrial diversions. Few defendants were convicted at trial.

The Dakota Access Pipeline protests reached their height from August 2016 to February 2017 in southern Morton County.

Thousands of protesters flocked to the camps just north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation on the Cannonball River to resist the $3.8 billion interstate oil pipeline.

The pipeline has been transporting Bakken crude oil from northwestern North Dakota to an Illinois hub since June 2017.

Tuesday's trial coincided with the closure of the Water Protector Legal Collective's criminal defense program, based in Mandan. The WPLC began at the Oceti Sakowin camp in 2016 with the aim of providing legal assistance for protest defendants.

Related Topics: CRIME AND COURTS
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