Pipeline protester accused in shooting reaches plea deal

AP News
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Posted: Jan 17, 2018 2:12 PM
Pipeline protester accused in shooting reaches plea deal

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A Denver woman accused of shooting at law officers during protests in North Dakota against the Dakota Access oil pipeline has reached a deal with prosecutors to avoid trial.

Attorneys for Red Fawn Fallis said the decision was based on anti-protester sentiment in the area and unsuccessful attempts to have a judge order the prosecution to turn over more information, including details about an FBI informant Fallis alleges seduced her and owned the gun.

"Red Fawn has been fighting an uphill battle at every stage of this case," her attorneys said in a statement late Tuesday.

U.S. Attorney Chris Myers on Wednesday declined comment until after the case is resolved.

Fallis was to stand trial in federal court in Fargo beginning Jan. 29 on accusations that she fired a handgun three times during her October 2016 arrest. No one was injured.

She earlier pleaded not guilty to civil disorder and weapons charges, including illegal possession of a gun by a convicted felon. She has a 2003 conviction in Colorado for being an accessory to a felony crime.

Fallis is now scheduled to plead guilty Monday in federal court in Bismarck to the civil disorder and gun possession counts. Prosecutors would drop a more serious weapons charge — discharge of a firearm in relation to a felony crime of violence — that carries a minimum prison sentence of 10 years and the possibility of life. Prosecutors also would recommend no more than seven years, according to Fallis' attorneys.

U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland must approve the plea deal, and he could sentence Fallis to up to 10 years.

"Red Fawn has made the very difficult decision to enter into a plea agreement that still risks significant prison time, but removes the mandatory minimum and the possibility of life imprisonment," her attorneys said.

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. Opponents fear environmental harm; the pipeline's Texas-based developer says it's safe.

Fallis last month asked Hovland to compel prosecutors to hand over more evidence, including more details about the FBI informant. She maintained the man infiltrated the protesters' camp and initiated a "duplicitous" romantic relationship with her, and that she had a right to information about the role he played in the events surrounding her arrest.

The government maintained it had turned over all available information and that "defendants' reference to the FBI informant as some sort of complex issue is misplaced."

Hovland last week sided with the government, saying Fallis' arguments were insufficient.

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