Two federal defendants from DAPL protests reach plea deals

JACK DURA Bismarck Tribune

Two federal defendants indicted in connection to the Dakota Access Pipeline protests have accepted plea agreements.

Both deals with federal prosecutors are similar: Dion Ortiz and James White will each plead guilty to civil disorder, while prosecutors will move to dismiss charges of use of fire to commit a federal felony — similar to related defendants' plea deals.

Ortiz and White were two of five defendants indicted in February 2017 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.

In Ortiz's case, prosecutors will recommend a prison sentence of up to 36 months, followed by three years of supervised release. He is to be sentenced in late October in Bismarck before U.S. District of North Dakota Chief Judge Daniel Hovland. Ortiz is held at the Burleigh-Morton County Detention Center.

As for White, defense and prosecuting attorneys will jointly recommend a sentence of time served with 12 months of home confinement and three years of supervised release. He is to be sentenced in mid-November in Bismarck before Hovland. White has been on pretrial release in Solen.

Michael Markus, who accepted a similar plea deal on the same indictment, pleaded guilty to civil disorder earlier this year and is set to be sentenced in late September. He has been on pretrial release in Wyoming.

Two other federal defendants who were part of the indictment remain to be adjudicated. Brennon Nastacio has been on pretrial release in Detroit. Brandon Miller-Castillo has yet to be arraigned 18 months after the indictment. 

Michael Giron and Red Fawn Fallis are the only federal defendants indicted from the DAPL protests to be adjudicated. Hovland sentenced them to 36 months and 57 months, respectively, with credit for time served.

About 700 state-level cases charged from the protests have been adjudicated. As of Friday, 19 cases were open, with 95 cases inactive with warrants for arrest, according to South Central Judicial Court numbers.

Red Fawn