Criminal charges against a well-known drone operator, who documented the Dakota Access Pipeline protests, were dismissed Monday at the request of the prosecutor.
Myron Dewey was accused of stalking unlicensed private pipeline security workers by taking video of them with his drone. A Morton County Sheriff's Office affidavit said Dewey flew over two unnamed people working for Leighton Security and tried to capture their faces and license plates to post online.
He pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor stalking charge and was scheduled for trial on Wednesday. He said that on Oct. 8, he was trying to capture the pipeline company possibly working illegally.
"I broke all the rules, but I did not break the law," Dewey said in an interview.
Monte Rogneby, attorney for the Private Investigation and Security Board, confirmed there is no Leighton Security company licensed in the state. He said there is no lawsuit pending against them, as there is with TigerSwan.
Morton County Assistant State's Attorney Brian Grosinger wrote in a motion filed Monday that his reason for dropping stalking charge was that the judge ruled to suppress evidence taken from the drone.
Judge Allan Schmalenberger wrote in an order on July 5 that the prosecutors did not provide enough evidence that search and seizure of the unmanned aerial device was legal.
"Although the state asserts reasons in their brief, they submit no competent evidence to support it," he wrote.
Dewey, the filmmaker behind the popular Facebook page, Digital Smoke Signals, wrote in an affidavit that officers stopped his truck on County Road 83 and took the Phantom 4 drone without a warrant or placing him under arrest.
"I did not give consent to any officer permitting them to seize my drone and controller; when I saw that they were seizing my property, I objected repeatedly to their seizing my property without a warrant," Dewey wrote.
Grosinger argued in his brief that officers already suspected Dewey was using the drone to violate the law and that the seizure fell under exceptions to the Fourth Amendment.
"Had they been required to obtain a warrant, the defendant could have destroyed evidence contained within the UAV's memory," the prosecutor wrote.