Journalist who was at pipeline protest to return to face charges
BISMARCK—A journalist facing criminal charges after reporting on a clash between private security and protesters at a Dakota Access Pipeline protest will return to North Dakota within the next week to face the accusations, said Tom Dickson, the Bismarck-based attorney representing Amy Goodman, of Democracy Now.
Dickson said he's planning to use First Amendment considerations to defend her against the misdemeanor criminal trespass charge.
"There's many justifications and legal justifications for why you're on somebody's property," Dickson said. "She wasn't picnicking or on a summer lark. She was reporting the news to the American people."
But the prosecutor said she does not deserve special treatment, because he doesn't consider her to be a journalist.
McLean County State's Attorney Ladd Erickson, who is prosecuting the case for Morton County, said he sees no difference between her and other anti-pipeline demonstrators charged with trespass.
"She's a protester, basically. Everything she reported on was from the position of justifying the protest actions," said Erickson, adding that her coverage of the Sept. 3 protest did not mention that people trespassed during the incident or the alleged assaults on guards.
"Is everybody that's putting out a YouTube video from down there a journalist down there, too?" he asked.
Dickson, who considers Goodman to be a journalist, said he is not pleased with the charges against her, blasting them as "unamerican."
"You don't arrest reporters," he said. "I think the government is overplaying its hand."
He said Goodman is returning to North Dakota, because "she's a professional, and she wants to deal with it and defend herself."
Goodman has received several awards for her reporting, including the George Polk Award.
Goodman was charged in Morton County on Sept. 8 with one count of trespassing, based on video footage of her at a protest site on private property during Labor Day weekend, according to court records. A warrant was issued for her arrest.
She reported on a clash between protesters and private security at an active construction site south of Mandan that the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe said contained historic artifacts. Three guards were reportedly injured, and several protesters said they were pepper-sprayed and bitten by dogs handled by the security personnel. The North Dakota Private Investigation and Security Board has since opened an investigation into the use of dogs at the site.
If convicted, Goodman could face up to 30 days in prison and a $2,500 fine.
A court date for her initial appearance has not yet been set.