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Judge rules against pipeline protester's motions

A scene from the Dakota Access Pipeline protest last year. Bismarck Tribune file photo

BISMARCK—District of North Dakota Chief Judge Daniel Hovland has denied two motions to suppress evidence and statements from Red Fawn Fallis from when she was arrested at a pipeline protest last year.

Fallis, 38, is accused of shooting a handgun at officers during her arrest on Oct. 27, 2016, in a fray alongside State Highway 1806 north of Cannon Ball.

Hovland's federal court order came Friday, finding that Fallis' "voluntary" statements weren't derived from interrogation, and therefore are admissible at trial next month.

Officers' testimony quoted Fallis as saying, "If I wanted to kill you, I would have shot you in the head," and "All pigs deserve to die," while laughing or giggling.

Eight witnesses testified in the extended suppression hearing in Bismarck earlier this month, including a protest camp peacekeeper and seven officers who participated in some aspect of Fallis' arrest.

Fallis' legal team sought to suppress her statements and evidence on the grounds that her warrantless arrest violated free speech and unlawful search rights.

Pennington County (S.D.) Sheriff's Deputy Thadius Schmit initiated Fallis' arrest and testified he did so due to her physical conduct. She also was reportedly yelling and screaming at officers.

Hovland also wrote there is "more than sufficient evidence" showing Fallis resisted arrest. Her defense argued she did not resist, and any struggle was the result a "violent" and "brutal" seizure.

Officers testified that Fallis squirmed, kicked, wrapped her legs around a deputy and spread her fingers to hinder handcuffing.

Hovland also wrote that whatever the sufficiency of grounds for Fallis' initial arrest, other viable reasons remain.

"(H)er conduct in physically resisting arrest, including brandishing and discharging a firearm, clearly provided an independent grounds for her arrest," he wrote.

After the hearing, Fallis' defense filed a motion to compel discovery, alleging the U.S. Attorney's Office has not complied with discovery obligations, including potential body camera footage.

In briefs, Assistant U.S. Attorney David Hagler maintained the prosecution has turned over all available discovery items, describing the defense's requests as "fishing expeditions." He wrote that an "exhaustive review" found no officers' videos depicting the time frame right before or during Fallis' arrest.

Fallis is to stand trial beginning Jan. 29 in Fargo on federal charges of civil disorder, discharge of a firearm in relation to a felony crime of violence and possession of a firearm and ammunition by a convicted felon.

She resides in a halfway house in Fargo. Hovland granted her four nights' furlough to spend Christmas in Rapid City with family.