Jill Stein Reaches Deal On Pipeline Protest-Related Charges

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Former Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein has reached a plea agreement with prosecutors to resolve criminal charges filed against her in North Dakota nearly a year ago for protesting the Dakota Access oil pipeline, court records show.

The state filed the proposed plea deal with the court, the records show, but the document itself has not been released. It is considered confidential until a judge signs off. Morton County Assistant State’s Attorney Brian Grosinger did not respond Wednesday to email and telephone messages seeking comment on details of the agreement and on why prosecutors chose not to take the case to trial. Stein and her attorney also did not respond to phone and email messages seeking comment.

Stein faces misdemeanor charges of criminal trespass and criminal mischief for spray-painting a bulldozer at a construction site last September. She told The Associated Press in March that it was “very problematic to have this hanging over my head” and that she wanted the case resolved.

The $3.8 billion pipeline built by Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners on June 1 began moving North Dakota oil through South Dakota and Iowa to a distribution point in Illinois, though American Indian tribes who fear environmental harm are still fighting the project in court. Protests in North Dakota by tribes and environmental groups between last August and this past February resulted in 761 arrests.

Stein was at a pipeline construction site in southern North Dakota on Sept. 6, 2016, where authorities said equipment was vandalized. She issued a statement at the time admitting to spray-painting the words “I approve this message” on the blade of a bulldozer to protest that it “had been used to destroy sacred burial sites of the Standing Rock Sioux.”

A state judge issued an arrest warrant for Stein the next day, but court proceedings were never scheduled. Grosinger has not responded to several requests for comment as to why.

The two charges against Stein each carry a maximum punishment of 30 days in jail and a $1,500 fine. She said in March that she was willing to go jail but that’s “not my preference, obviously.”

Another high-profile pipeline opponent arrested in North Dakota, Hollywood actress Shailene Woodley, in March agreed to a plea deal with prosecutors that kept her out of jail. She also faced misdemeanor charges that carried the same potential punishment as Stein faces.

Stein said in March that she doesn’t view the pipeline’s completion as a defeat because Dakota Access opponents “connected the dots between the struggle for indigenous human rights and water rights and climate survival.” She said she also plans to be active in the opposition to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, though she wasn’t sure in what way.

(© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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