Subscribe for 33¢ / day

A federal defendant indicted from the Dakota Access protests pleaded guilty Tuesday.

Michael Markus, 46, appeared before District of North Dakota Chief Judge Daniel Hovland, pleading guilty to civil disorder as part of a deal with prosecutors, who, at sentencing, will move to dismiss his remaining charge of use of fire to commit a federal felony offense. Defense and prosecuting attorneys also will jointly recommend a three-year sentence with three years of supervised release.

Markus and attorneys signed the plea agreement last month. He was indicted with four others a year ago in connection to a barricade fire set on the Morton County Road 134 bridge on Oct. 27, 2016, as law enforcement advanced. That day, officers were moving south on State Highway 1806 and swept a protest camp erected on a pipeline easement.

Markus, a 20-year truck driver and veteran of the Marine Corps, said he spent three years in prison for a burglary conviction in 1992 in Nebraska. H said he came to North Dakota in 2016, settling at the Oceti Sakowin camp in September that year. In connection to the protests, Markus was charged in three separate, state-level misdemeanor cases, all still open.

He said he's been living at a ranch in Cheyenne, Wyo., since being on pretrial release, reporting monthly to a probation officer.

Hovland will sentence Markus in late May in federal court in Bismarck, adding that he is likely to adopt the plea agreement's terms.

Reach Jack Dura at 701-250-8225 or


Crime and Courts Reporter