Dear Water Protector Arrestees,
We are so grateful for the sacrifices you have made to defend what is sacred. We are still here on the ground battling every day within the Morton County court system to bring justice for all water protectors.
Freshet Collective is an indigenous run collective of 7 people working in Mandan, ND, continuing to support those who were arrested at Standing Rock. We are past the halfway point of cases (407 state and 7 federal cases still pending). More and more cases are being dismissed for lack of evidence to go forward, and we hope to continue to see this happen.
Closed #NoDAPL Cases - As of 9/8/17
DO I HAVE AN OPEN CASE?
Morton County has put out warrants, dismissed cases, recharged water protectors, and failed to send mail or contact arrestees regarding scheduled court dates. Many water protectors are unsure about the status of their cases. Freshet Collective is here to help, support, and inform you about the court system, and provide resources that you need to understand what is happening with your case.
We have been in communication with 256 (out of 432) arrestees who have had their cases closed, and it is clear that being in touch with one another leads to better legal outcomes for water protectors. While we have tried to reach every arrestee -through phone, text, email, Facebook, relatives- we often cannot get through, or do not have current contact information. This has been especially difficult since so many water protectors had phones confiscated during their arrest.
How to contact the Freshet Collective:
FB page: Water Protector Arrestee Support
Call or text: 701.301.7511
To find out the status of your case, you can search your name in the North Dakota court website at: publicsearch.ndcourts.gov/
I HAVE A WARRANT
There are over 100 cases where water protectors have warrants. Warrants are issued when you miss a scheduled court date. They have also been used when Morton County has decided to charge a water protector in cases where there was no arrest at the time of the event. Water protectors have had charges added to their initial ones as well, and warrants have been given when cases have been dismissed and arrestees are re-charged (from the same arrest). We have even started to notice warrants being issued for unpaid fines of those who took plea deals.
In most situations, you can resolve a warrant by contacting your attorney. Your attorney can contact the courts and often have the warrant “quashed” without you needing to appear in court. Once the warrant is quashed, the court will schedule a trial date for you. Morton County will not schedule a trial date until the warrant is resolved. If you do not have an attorney, contact Freshet Collective.
*Please note: If you are arrested in another state and have a warrant for a felony charge in North Dakota, you can be held and transferred to a North Dakota jail. This process can take up to 30 days depending how fast the two states talk to each other and send transportation to move you to North Dakota. Freshet Collective is available to post bond for you if this happens. We encourage you to actively seek out information and resolve your warrants while there are resources here to help you.
Every water protector has the right to determine what the best decision is for your case. We are here to provide information and support in making those choices, however, we cannot offer advice. Many water protectors come to us with questions about plea deals. Your attorney will usually communicate with you what kind of plea deal the Morton County prosecution is offering. Since our legal team is looking at NoDAPL cases both individually and collectively, we can also give you perspectives about your case in relation to other cases. For example, we have seen the prosecution try to push plea deals in cases that would otherwise need to be dismissed because the prosecutors do not have enough information to bring a case to trial.
The plea deals we have often seen from Morton County are something like: if you enter a “guilty” plea for one or more of your charges, the prosecution may dismiss one or more of your other charges. The consequences of guilty pleas have been pretty similar: the water protectoragrees to 6 months to one year of unsupervised probation, admits guilt to the charge, and the bond money that was paid on their behalf is taken by the state, and sometimes there are additional charges higher than the forfeited bond.
There have been situations where public defenders and court-appointed attorneys have pressured water protectors into taking plea deals. If you experience this pressure, would like a different attorney, or would like to discuss the plea offer with a legal worker or different attorney, please contact Freshet Collective.
TRAVEL, LODGING, AND ATTORNEYS
If you do not currently have an attorney, or are having difficulties with your attorney and would like a new one, both Freshet Collective and Water Protector Legal Collective have attorneys who can speak with you about specifics of your case and/or represent you. On the Freshet Collective website, you can fill out a form called “I need an attorney” here or contact us through Facebook, email, or phone. You can also reach Water Protector Legal Collective at 701.566.9108 or waterprotectorlegal.org. For those with closed cases, Freshet Collective has provided attorneys for 95 arrestees and Water Protector Legal Collective has provided attorneys for 63 arrestees.
The majority of water protectors who have closed cases have not needed to travel back to Mandan, ND for court. Freshet Collective has provided travel for 67 arrestees and lodging for 64 arrestees, as well as relatives and partners that came in support. We offer travel and lodging for water protectors, though there is often a great deal of confusion about this. In the past couple months, the prosecution has dismissed over 150 cases - and waited until two or three days before trial to do so. Many arrestees have traveled to Mandan, ND and had their case dismissed before stepping into the courtroom. This has often meant that arrestees spend a great deal of travel, effort and time while Freshet Collective spends financial resources on unnecessary trips. We try to coordinate this with water protectors as best as possible, and it often includes making two separate plans, preparing for uncertainty and last minute changes, and a lot of communication and trust.
Many water protectors have contacted us with interest in a "treaty defense". We have been exploring these options since March, and working with various attorneys to build this type of defense. In the past few months, the prosecution has been dismissing cases before they go to trial, so the opportunity to utilize a treaty defense in court has been impacted by this. If you are interested in participating in or learning more about this, please contact Freshet Collective.
MY CASE IS CLOSED, HOW CAN I SUPPORT OTHER WATER PROTECTORS?
There are a number of things that you can do to continue supporting the legal defense efforts. Here are some ways to continue to be involved:
- Help connect relatives and friends with open cases to Freshet Collective, so we can support the resolution of warrants and assist with information and other resources
- If you live in or near Morton/Burleigh counties and are interested in providing court support (showing up for the trials of other water protectors), please get in touch with Freshet.
- Write letters and build support for Red Fawn and Little Feather, who are both still incarcerated as they await trial.
- Reach out to displaced water protectors and share your resources - whether housing, financial, healing support - with those who continue to struggle since they have left camp
- Donate to the legal defense efforts currently underway as water protectors build momentum in opposition to Line 3
Freshet Collective is responsible for holding the $3.1 million that was raised through the Sacred Stone Legal Defense Fund. This money was entrusted to us on behalf of water protector arrestees, and we have worked to manage it with great care. In distributing these resources, we prioritize Indigenous water protectors, elders, people with disabilities, undocumented folks, non-Indigenous people of color, two spirit/ transgender/ non-binary folks, and those with felony charges or warrants.