A judge refused to delay and limited the scope of the upcoming trial of a Denver woman accused of shooting at law officers during protests in North Dakota against the Dakota Access oil pipeline.
U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland says he considers the case involving Red Fawn Fallis "far from complex" and that any attempt by either side to broaden testimony "would be ill-advised."
The judge issued a decision Tuesday saying he would not allow any discussion about treaty agreements between the U.S. government and Native American tribes; protest activity in the months leading up to Fallis' Oct. 27, 2016, arrest; or whether the protest was necessary to prevent a greater harm. Pipeline opponents, including four Native American tribes, fear a leak could cause catastrophic environmental harm. The Texas-based developer says its pipeline is safe.
"Although the amount of discovery (evidence) disclosed to date is extensive, as are the demands for additional discovery, the reality is that the heart of this case rests upon less than five minutes of chaotic activity," Hovland wrote.
Fallis' arrest was among 761 that authorities made between August 2016 and February 2017, when at times thousands of pipeline opponents gathered in southern North Dakota to protest the $3.8 billion project to move North Dakota oil to a shipping point in Illinois.
Fallis is accused of firing a handgun three times at officers during her arrest. No one was injured. She has pleaded not guilty to federal civil disorder and weapons charges and is to stand trial beginning Jan. 29 in Fargo. If convicted of all counts she would face a minimum prison sentence of 10 years and the possibility of life behind bars.
Hovland rejected the request of Fallis' attorneys to delay the trial for three months as they attempt to gather more information from the government. Their requests include details about an FBI informant the defense maintains infiltrated the protesters' camp and "initiated and maintained a duplicitous 'romantic' relationship with Ms. Fallis."
Her attorneys allege the gun belonged to the informant, not to Fallis, and that she has a right to information about "the role he played in the creation and support of the civil disorder alleged by the government, as well as his role in the events" surrounding Fallis' arrest.
Assistant U.S. Attorney David Hagler asserts the government has shared the evidence it has — 780 videos, 167 audio recordings, 5,750 images and 2,188 pages of documents -- and that the defense request for more is "overbroad" and "overreaching." He also states that "defendants' reference to the FBI informant as some sort of complex issue is misplaced."
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