We’re just back from North Dakota, where on Monday District Judge John Grinsteiner refused to authorize “riot” charges against Amy Goodman for reporting for Democracy Now! on an attack against Native American-led anti-pipeline protesters. The judge did not find probable cause to justify the charges filed on Friday, October 14, by State’s Attorney Ladd R. Erickson, which were presented after Erickson had withdrawn an earlier charge against Goodman of criminal trespass. After the judge’s decision, Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier said, “After consulting with the Morton County States Attorney, I am assured charges are being considered against these individuals. Let me make this perfectly clear, if you trespass on private property, you will be arrested.” Ladd Erickson, state prosecutor, told The New York Times: “I believe they want to keep the investigation open and see if there is any evidence in the unedited and unpublished videos that we could better detail in an affidavit for the judge. The ‘Democracy Now’ video that many people have seen doesn’t have much evidence value in it.” After the decision was announced, Goodman’s attorneys Reed Brody and Tom Dickson joined her in speaking outside the Morton County Courthouse, where hundreds gathered to show support for more than a half-dozen water protectors who were facing charges related to the ongoing resistance to the $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline.
AMY GOODMAN: We are just back from North Dakota, where on Monday I was supposed to appear in court to face a riot charge for Democracy Now!’s reporting on an attack against Native American-led anti-pipeline protesters. On Saturday, September 3rd, Democracy Now! filmed security guards working for the Dakota Access pipeline attacking protesters. The report showed guards unleashing dogs and using pepper spray, and featured people with bite injuries and a dog with blood dripping from its nose and mouth. Democracy Now!’s report went viral online, was viewed more than 14 million times on Facebook and was rebroadcast on many outlets, including CBS, NBC, NPR, CNN, MSNBC and The Huffington Post.
Days after Democracy Now! published the video, Morton County issued an arrest warrant for me. I was initially charged with criminal trespassing. On Friday, as I flew into North Dakota, that charge was dropped for lack of evidence. But it was replaced by a charge of rioting. Well, on Monday, North Dakota District Judge John Grinsteiner refused to authorize the riot charges. After the decision was announced, my attorneys, Reed Brody and Tom Dickson, and I spoke outside the Morton County Courthouse, where hundreds gathered to show support for more than a half-dozen water protectors who were facing charges related to the ongoing resistance to the $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline. This is, to begin, my attorney, Tom Dickson.
TOM DICKSON: Good afternoon. On Friday afternoon, the criminal trespass charge, which was a frivolous criminal charge, was dismissed against Amy Goodman. At that time, we were — at that time, we were informally informed there would be a second charge filed against her: engaging in a riot, a Class B misdemeanor charge. And we were informed that she was to appear in front of the judge at 1:30 today to hear the charge and to get bond set. This morning, we were informed the judge refused to find probable cause for that charge. I spoke with the Morton County state’s attorney, Al Koppy, this afternoon. The case against Amy Goodman is now dismissed. Amy Goodman is a free woman.
REED BRODY: Thank you very much. Let me just say that Amy Goodman was always a free woman. I think when the state, when the prosecutor misguidedly decided to file charges against Amy Goodman, she decided — he decided to go after the wrong person. Amy Goodman is not intimidated. And this dismissal, this rejection of the charges, is a complete vindication of the right of a journalist to report on the truth and, more importantly, the right of the public to know what is happening with the pipeline and with the struggle of the people here to protect their water and to protect their land.
AMY GOODMAN: It is a great honor to be here today. The judge’s decision to reject the State’s Attorney Ladd Erickson’s attempt to prosecute a journalist — in this case, me — is a great vindication of the First Amendment and of our right to report.
AMY GOODMAN: That was the scene outside the Morton County Courthouse and jail in Mandan, North Dakota, yesterday.
Also on Monday, after Judge Grinsteiner rejected multiple riot charges for lack of evidence, including the riot charge against me, Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier said, quote, “After consulting with the Morton County States Attorney, I am assured charges are being considered against these individuals. Let me make this perfectly clear, if you trespass on private property, you will be arrested,” unquote.
Ladd Erickson, the state’s attorney, told The New York Times, “I believe they want to keep the investigation open and see if there’s any evidence in the unedited and unpublished videos that we could better detail in an affidavit for the judge. The ‘Democracy Now’ video that many people have seen doesn’t have much evidence value in it,” the state’s attorney said.
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