Judge rejects riot charges for journalist Amy Goodman after oil pipeline protest

Judge rejects riot charges for journalist Amy Goodman after oil pipeline protest

Authorities had issued a warrant for her arrest after Democracy Now! host filmed guards for the Dakota access pipeline using dogs and pepper spray on protesters

A North Dakota judge rejected prosecutors riot charges against Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman for her reporting on the oil pipeline protests, a decision that advocates hailed as a major victory for freedom of the press.

After the award-winning broadcast journalist filmed security guards working for the Dakota access pipeline using dogs and pepper spray on protesters, authorities issued a warrant for Goodmans arrest and alleged that she participated in a riot, a serious offense that could result in months in jail.

On Monday, judge John Grinsteiner ruled that the state lacked probable cause for the riot charge, blocking prosecutors from moving forward with the controversial prosecution.

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I feel vindicated. Most importantly, journalism is vindicated, Goodman told reporters and supporters on a live Facebook video Monday afternoon. We have a right to report. Its also critical that we are on the front lines. Today, the judge sided with … freedom of the press.

The case stems from a 3 September report when Goodman traveled to the Native American-led protest against a controversial $3.8bn oil pipeline that the Standing Rock Sioux tribe says is threatening its water supply and cultural heritage.

Goodmans dispatch on the use of dogs went viral and has since garnered 14m views on Facebook and also prompted coverage from many news outlets, including CBS, NBC, NPR and CNN.

The North Dakota state attorneys office had originally charged the journalist with criminal trespass. But last week, prosecutors emailed Goodmans attorney, admitting that there were legal issues with proving the notice of trespassing requirements in the statute, according to Democracy Now! Instead, the state said it would be seeking riot charges.

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If the prosecutor thought he was going to intimidate Amy, he severely misjudged the situation, Reed Brody, one of Goodmans lawyers, told the Guardian after the judges decision Monday.

In one email, states attorney Ladd Erickson alleged that Goodman was not acting as a journalist, according to Democracy Now! However, the original trespassing complaint noted that she is a reporter, with prosecutors writing that Goodman can be seen on video identifying herself and interviewing protesters.

Erickson claimed to the local Bismarck Tribune newspaper that Goodman is a a protester, basically, adding: Everything she reported on was from the position of justifying the protest actions.

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Goodman who has written for the Guardian in the past is a critically acclaimed progressive host and executive producer of Democracy Now!, a program that airs on more than 1,400 stations across the globe. She has also co-authored six New York Times bestsellers.

During the September dispatch, Democracy Now! quoted one protester describing the dogs violently attacking activists: These people are just threatening all of us with these dogs. And she, that woman over there, she was charging, and it bit somebody right in the face.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/oct/17/amy-goodman-north-dakota-oil-access-pipeline-protest-arrest-riot