Attorneys for water protectors at the Standing Rock say they had a significant victory in court Wednesday, including the right to key information that the state so far has withheld. They also won the right to depose members of the private security firm Tiger Swan as well as other law enforcement officials.
The legal team also learned that key evidence most likely was destroyed.
Quick check in: Standing Rock hasn’t been in the news recently, as attention has shifted to efforts to stop the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands crude oil pipeline through Minnesota. But water protector cases are still being prosecuted in North Dakota, long after the Dakota Access Pipeline forced its way under the Missouri River near Standing Rock.
The Lakota Peoples Law Project sends out periodic updates on the cases against Chase Iron Eyes and HolyElk Rafferty. Here is the most recent update:
For months, the State of North Dakota has failed to pursue or provide required evidence to the defense team representing Lakota People’s Law Project Lead Counsel Chase Iron Eyes. At a crucial hearing on Tuesday, Apr. 4, Judge Lee Christofferson made several rulings in favor of the defense.
Christofferson ruled that Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier and the State of North Dakota must hand over all missing evidence by May 1, and he scolded the deputy state’s attorney for his lack of action. Christofferson also granted defense lawyer Alex Reichert and Lakota People’s Law Project attorneys Daniel Sheehan and Lanny Sinkin the authority to subpoena employees of TigerSwan, the mercenary security firm hired by Dakota Access pipeline parent company Energy Transfer Partners. Our defense team alleges that TigerSwan ran a targeted, racist, no-holds-barred surveillance and smear campaign against Chase and other water protectors.
The defense team wants to show what it says was illegal collusion between industry, law enforcement, and TigerSwan. Click on the link above and you can watch a 36-minute video of defense attorneys talking about recent developments. The highlights follow.
Here are some eye-popping comments:
Critical Information Destroyed?: Defense attorney Daniel Sheehan provided the following description of the April 4 hearing:
The defense team had been waiting for a year for the state to turn over information that is critical for the defense. Specifically, it has asked for the tapes of law enforcement radio traffic during a Feb. 1, 2017 mass arrest and the name of the police videographer at the time. The prosecutor kept saying he didn’t know.
The judge ordered the hearing stopped and ordered the prosecutor to bring in Sheriff Kirchmeier to provide the information. “It took one minute to find out what the name of the videographer was and the name of the person in charge of the tapes,” Sheehan said. The Judge put the Sheriff put under oath. “The Sheriff asserted that the recordings of the radio traffic of that day of Feb. 1 a year ago, had, in his best judgment had been deleted,” Sheehan reported.
The state prosecutor admitted that had the tapes been turned over at the time the defense requested them, they probably would have still been available.
The Judge ordered prompt delivery of several defense discovery requests.
Tiger Swan Depositions: Sheehan said theirs is the first legal team the court has granted authority to take the sworn depositions from Tiger Swan. Further, they have the authority to get sworn depositions from police officers and law enforcement. beyond the simple facts of when a certain arrest took place. “These are important rulings from the court,” he said. “We will be demanding further documents from other entities,” such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the North Dakota Dept. of Public Service, Energy Transfer Partners Corp. and the Dakota Access Pipeline Corp, “these are entities that have not yet been required to turn over information.”
Governor’s Office Has to Release Documents: The court ordered the Governor’s office to turn over documents from former Gov. Jack Dalrymple that explain his decision to declare a state of emergency at Standing Rock and invoke statutes that authorized him to bring in law enforcement from other states.
Part of the video is a fundraising appeal to help finance the depositions. Here is the main Lakota People’s Law Project website.