Attorneys in the case of a prominent pipeline protester may make their argument in April for a necessity defense in the case, likely pushing trial out to late summer as they gather evidence.
Chase Iron Eyes, an attorney and North Dakota's 2016 Democratic House candidate, was in Morton County court Friday for a hearing before Surrogate Judge David Nelson. Lead attorney Alex Reichert proposed a new trial schedule, including four months to conduct discovery, with motions to be filed by April 4, any hearings by May 4 with a pretrial conference in June or July to schedule a trial.
Seeking to invoke a necessity defense, Iron Eyes claims the perceived threat of the Dakota Access Pipeline to his community forced him to commit civil disobedience.
"Our peaceful and prayerful stand did no harm to anyone, especially when measured against the harm these projects pose to our planet’s well being and the chance of future generations to live healthy lives," Iron Eyes said. "I did what I had to do."
He is charged with felony inciting a riot and misdemeanor criminal trespass to which he has pleaded innocent.
He's set for a Feb. 8 felony jury trial but Nelson said one day in court is unlikely.
"There's a huge volume of information that has to come here," Reichert said, referring to pictures, videos, audio and other items related to the day of Iron Eyes' alleged crimes last winter.
Reichert also requested information pertaining to law enforcement and private security present that day along State Highway 1806 in southern Morton County, including the TigerSwan security firm.
He also requested any memos, contracts and agreements between law enforcement and other agencies, as well as payroll indicating which officers were present on the day in question.
"I'm not going to try to rush this through. We want to make sure this gets done right," Nelson said, calling Iron Eyes' case one of the "premier" pipeline protest cases.
Defense attorney Lanny Sinkin said Nelson will likely hear Iron Eyes' argument for his necessity defense in April after independent discovery is completed.
"It's not a simple, one, single criminal charge. It's a much bigger case," Sinkin said.