A South Dakota man investigators say is linked through DNA evidence on a cigarette butt to a 2016 riot at a Dakota Access Pipeline construction site turned himself in and made his initial court appearance Tuesday in Morton County. He'll remain free as his court case proceeds.
Lawrence Malcolm Jr., 23, of Sisseton, S.D., was informed of the charges against him, which include felony criminal mischief and misdemeanor engaging in a riot. He appeared via video link from the Burleigh Morton Detention Center, where he turned himself in early Tuesday on the advice of his attorney, Bruce Nestor of Minneapolis, who was not in the courtroom.
Authorities filed charges against Malcolm in early September, after North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation agents were informed by the State Crime Lab in August that DNA from a cigarette butt found at the scene of a 2016 protest was a match for Malcolm. His DNA was on file from a previous arrest.
Protesters caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage to construction equipment at the September 2016 riot, a BCI affidavit says.
Nestor asked the court in mid-September to dismiss the charges against Malcolm, saying the cigarette butt could have been tossed out of a moving car days before the protest, been deposited by someone emptying an ashtray or left by Malcolm days or weeks before the Sept. 6, 2016, incident. Even if Malcolm was at the scene, Nestor said, the affidavit doesn’t show he participated in the riot.
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Assistant Morton County State’s Attorney Chase Lingle wrote in a response to Nestor’s motion that investigators reviewed photos and video of the riot and saw Malcolm on the scene with a black bandanna on his face. The appropriate time for addressing probable cause is at a preliminary hearing, Lingle said.
Nestor in a position paper to the court dated Oct. 15 asked that a preliminary hearing be scheduled.
Malcolm on Tuesday told South Central District Judge James Hill that he has posted $3,000 bond in other cases pending against him. He’s complied with the conditions of that bond, he said.
“I do not look at this as a violation,” Malcolm said.
Hill agreed, saying the new charges were filed in connection with an incident that occurred before protest incidents in October 2016 and January 2017 in which Malcolm also is accused. Hill tied the existing bond with the new charges and told Malcolm he would be released. Morton County State’s Attorney Allen Koppy did not object.
Court documents show a trial date of Nov. 19 for the October 2016 and January 2017 incidents.
Reach Travis Svihovec at 701-250-8260 or Travis.Svihovec@bismarcktribune.com