Chase Iron Eyes

Chase Iron Eyes arrived for a hearing in the Morton County Courthouse in Mandan in March 2017. He entered a not guilty plea to inciting a riot, a disputed characterization of an anti-pipeline demonstration that took place in southern Morton County.

What is perhaps the last high-profile criminal case from the Dakota Access Pipeline protests is all but over. 

Attorney and North Dakota's 2016 Democratic-NPL U.S. House nominee Chase Iron Eyes has accepted a plea agreement with Morton County prosecutors Bryan Grosinger and Chase Lingle. Iron Eyes was charged last year with felony inciting a riot and misdemeanor criminal trespass related to protest activities on Feb. 1, 2017, in erecting a camp on pipeline land in southern Morton County. 

Under conditions of the plea agreement, prosecutors have moved to amend felony inciting a riot to misdemeanor disorderly conduct, as well as dismiss misdemeanor criminal trespass.

The plea agreement also includes a 360-day deferred imposition, during which Iron Eyes must commit no criminal violations and pay a $1,500 fine and $350 in court fees. 

If, after that 360 days, Iron Eyes has successfully completed those terms, the case will be cleared from his record.

The plea agreement filed Tuesday awaits Surrogate Judge Lee Christofferson's OK. As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, he had not issued a related order.

In a statement, Iron Eyes remarked that the plea agreement includes no incarceration or risk to his license to practice law. 

"The world should know that it’s legally impossible for me and other Native people to trespass on treaty land, and I never started a riot. I and the water protectors are not terrorists. We and the U.S. veterans who stood with us to protect Mother Earth are the true patriots,” he said.

“Now I can be with my family and continue defending the sovereignty of my people. This will allow me to keep working nonstop to protect First Amendment, human and Native rights."

Grosinger and Lingle were unavailable to comment at 3 p.m. Tuesday. 

As of Wednesday, 18 of the 831 state-level criminal cases from the DAPL protests were open, according to South Central Judicial District trial court administrator Donna Wunderlich. About 90 cases are inactive with warrants. About 700 cases have been adjudicated.

Iron Eyes had intended to argue for a "necessity defense," invoking his belief that the threat of the pipeline left him no choice but to commit civil disobedience. A nine-day jury trial had been set to begin in November. 

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