A judge acquitted a Dakota Access Pipeline protester midway through her jury trial on Thursday.
South Central District Judge Gail Hagerty called off the trial after the prosecutor presented his evidence, which included the testimony of one law enforcement officer, according to the defendant.
Alex “Distance” Wilson was accused of two Class B misdemeanors -- disorderly conduct and disobeying a public safety order under riot conditions -- from an Oct. 15 protest.
Hagerty decided the prosecutor failed to provide evidence to meet all of the elements of the charges, said Wilson and Sam Saylor, who acted as standby counsel for the self-represented defendant. Saylor said Hagerty decided the protest did not have the violent or tumultuous conduct required to show that it was a riot.
Wilson said she challenged the trooper on his knowledge of Native American ceremonies and his perception of drumming as tumultuous.
“I feel happy,” Wilson said after court.
Hagerty declined to comment.
“There are ebbs and flows in these DAPL cases in court, because of numerous people being arrested or trying to get arrested, and many officers from all over North Dakota having to respond to the protest scenes,” Ladd Erickson, who represented Morton County, said in an email.
Erickson said in misdemeanor cases like Wilson’s, there is usually one officer dealing with each defendant from start to finish, but this was not feasible in each protester’s case.
“That wasn't possible at many DAPL protest scenes where officers had to deal with dozens of people at a time to try and get control of the situation. Documenting each person’s actions later for court created challenges,” Erickson said.