Law enforcement officers line the street in front of the Morton County Courthouse in Mandan, N.D., as Dakota Access Pipeline protesters stand on the opposite side of the street on Monday, Oct. 17, 2016. The protesters gathered in support of journalist Amy Goodman before her court hearing on a rioting charge while covering the protesters in September. A SouthCentral District judge dismissed the charge.  (Mike Mccleary/The Bismarck Tribune via AP)

Law enforcement officers line the street in front of the Morton County Courthouse in Mandan, N.D., as Dakota Access Pipeline protesters stand on the opposite side of the street on Monday, Oct. 17, 2016. The protesters gathered in support of journalist Amy Goodman before her court hearing on a rioting charge while covering the protesters in September. A SouthCentral District judge dismissed the charge. (Mike Mccleary/The Bismarck Tribune via AP)

‘Democracy Now’ reporter to plead not guilty to riot charge

  • By JAMES MacPHERSON and BLAKE NICHOLSON
  • Tuesday, October 18, 2016 1:00am
  • NewsNation-World

MANDAN, N.D. — Journalist Amy Goodman, host of the syndicated program “Democracy Now!” said she planned to plead not guilty Monday to a riot charge stemming from her coverage of a protest against the construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline in North Dakota.

“I will fight these charges vigorously,” Goodman told The Associated Press. “I wasn’t trespassing. I wasn’t rioting. I was reporting.”

Goodman had earlier been charged with criminal trespassing, but that charge was dismissed Friday.

Her defense attorney, Tom Dickson, said Monday that prosecutor Ladd Erickson had told him authorities planned to charge Goodman with engaging in a riot. The misdemeanor charge, which carries penalty of up to 30 days in jail and a $1,500 fine, had not been filed Monday morning.

Goodman plans to enter her plea and post bond Monday afternoon, Dickson said.

The protests have drawn thousands of people to the area where Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners is trying to wrap up construction on the $3.8 billion, 1,200-mile pipeline from North Dakota to Illinois. Opponents of the pipeline worry about potential effects on drinking water on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation and farther downstream, as well as destruction of cultural artifacts.

Goodman is one of about 140 people who have been charged in recent weeks with interfering with the pipeline’s construction in North Dakota.

An arrest warrant was issued for Goodman after she reported on a clash between protesters and pipeline security at a construction site Sept. 3, when Standing Rock Sioux officials said crews bulldozed several sites of “significant cultural and historic value” on private land. Energy Transfer Partners denies those allegations.

Law enforcement officials said four security guards and two guard dogs received medical treatment. A tribal spokesman said six people were bitten by guard dogs and at least 30 people were pepper-sprayed.

Goodman, who is based in New York, said she “came to North Dakota to cover this epic struggle … what we found was horrifying.”

Erickson did not immediately return telephone calls Monday. He has said Goodman went beyond reporting by yelling at security guards.

“I think she put together a piece to influence the world on her agenda, basically,” Erickson told the Bismarck Tribune.

“Is he charging me with a crime because he doesn’t like my reporting?” said Goodman, who was broadcasting her program Monday across the street from the Morton County Courthouse. “I’m afraid he is sending a message to reporters, ‘Do not come to the state of North Dakota or we will arrest you.’”

Carlos Lauria, senior Americas coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, said any charges against Goodman are an attempt to intimidate reporters from covering protests of “significant public interest.”

“It is shocking,” said Lauria, who is based in New York. “Authorities must drop these ridiculous accusations to ensure all reporters can continue to work without interference.”

Goodman’s New York-based show airs daily on hundreds of radio and TV stations and over the Internet.

It’s not the first time Goodman has had a brush with the law while covering events. She and two of her producers received $100,000 in a settlement over their arrests during the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota.

St. Paul and Minneapolis agreed to pay a combined $90,000 while the federal government agreed to pay $10,000. The lawsuit named the federal government because a Secret Service agent confiscated the press credentials of Goodman and her producers.

Goodman said at the time the money would go “to support independent, unfettered” journalism about such events.

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