On Friday McLean County State’s Attorney Ladd Erickson, one of a group of prosecutors handling the overflow of cases from the Dakota Access Pipeline protests, dropped trespassing charges against Democracy Now activist Amy Goodman.
Instead he filed a new charge which is Engaging in a Riot, a class B misdemeanor. Here’s the law from the North Dakota Century Code:
And here is the definition of a riot from section 12.1-25-01:
Why did Erickson change the charge? “Our charges are based on evidence. None of the evidence has been disclosed at this point,” he told me this afternoon. “We’re trying in good faith to have the right charge.”
“In a lot of these cases from the beginning investigators have been collecting other evidence and changing charges based on that,” he continued. “I believe we need to treat Goodman the same as we’re treating everyone else. It has to be a uniform approach and evidence-based.”
He said there were approximately 50 people involved in the September 3rd protest Goodman was at which saw activists tear down a fence and attack a group of security guards on private property. Only seven people involved in that incident, including Goodman, have been charged. Erickson said that’s because those are the people law enforcement could identify on the video published by Goodman herself and in various social media postings.
“This case is primarily made after the fact identifying people in different videos,” he said.
He said the riot charge fits better for Goodman because there evidence was questionable for trespass. “The posting signs kept getting torn down by protesters. It becomes a problem when you try to say whether the land was posted,” he told me. “Was it protested when these protesters show up? Can you say it wasn’t torn down an hour before they showed up? There’s a legal question on how do you prove trespass.”
“In this instance I know the land was posted leading up to this day, but I don’t know on this day,” he added.
The original criminal complaint and warrant were issued for Goodman on September 8. Goodman is set to appear in court in Morton County on Monday at 1:30pm.
Meanwhile another 14 people were arrested today after hundreds of protesters traveled to three different pipeline work sites. One protester who had attached himself to construction equipment, but self-released when law enforcement arrived, was charged with “reckless endangerment, criminal trespass and inciting a riot.”
You can read the full press release here: