Several issues appearing late in the prosecution of a pipeline protester accused of abusing her 82-year-old mother led attorneys to agree to dismiss the case.

Kathleen Bennett, 59, had previously pleaded innocent to felony endangering a vulnerable adult. Defense and prosecuting attorneys agreed Tuesday to a state’s motion to dismiss the case with $2,050 in fines forfeited from Bennett’s bond.

She was required to attend Tuesday's pretrial conference but is in Nevada with limited funds, according to her attorney, William Kirschner. Attorneys weren't sure how to proceed with her absence.

That wasn’t the only issue: Bennett's trial was set for all next week but is short two essential witnesses, according to Morton County Assistant State's Attorney Brian Grosinger, who substituted for Morton County Assistant State's Attorney Gabrielle Goter.

Kirschner said at least one key witness is out of state while both didn't want to appear.

He and Grosinger spoke privately during a court recess as to how to progress and came to the eventual agreed disposition.

Kirschner said, that prior to Tuesday's conference, Bennett had declined a plea agreement from Goter that included a deferred imposition with fines derived from her bond.

"I cannot understand how a person could do that," Kirschner said. "It cost her nothing."

After their recess, Grosinger said he would motion to dismiss the case "based on consideration of the problems of the state" and draft related orders by Wednesday for Kirschner to inspect and Surrogate Judge Allan Schmalenberger to sign.

Kirschner said he would cancel his witnesses.

Bennett was accused of tying her frail and senile mother to a chair as she attended protests and of allegedly leaving the woman without pants in her own excrement at one point.

She is also charged by Burleigh County Court with using $1,200 of her mother's money for hotels, meals and legal fees in Bismarck while her mother was hospitalized. 

That case is set for a felony jury trial to begin Jan. 16.

After hospitalization in Bismarck, Bennett's mother moved to Nevada where her guardianship is shared between two sons. Court letters indicate her condition has improved.

Reach Jack Dura at 701-250-8225 or jack.dura@bismarcktribune.com.

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Crime and Courts Reporter