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Environmentalists convicted on trespassing and obstruction charges stemming from pipeline protest

An Ingham County jury today convicted a trio of environmentalists on charges related to a 2013 protest. 

Last July, the protesters attached themselves to equipment at an Enbridge oil pipeline construction site near Stockbridge.  The protesters are opposed to the shipment of Canadian tar sands oil through Michigan.

They were charged with trespassing and obstruction after staying put after officers told them to leave.   

Attorney Joshua Covert represents one of the defendants.  He's disappointed with the decision.

“I thought we put a good case on and showed that there was reasonable doubt as to was a command given, as well as were they notified  they were trespassing,” says Covert, “I think there was definitely reasonable doubt.”

The protesters now face two years in prison after being convicted on trespassing and obstruction charges.   Sentencing is scheduled for March.

A fourth defendant entered a guilty plea to the obstruction charge last week.

Enbridge issued a statement after the verdict:   

Safety is always the top priority on worksites, and it’s important that the public share this priority for their own safety and for the safety of our crews and contractors. We hope this decision will serve to deter others from creating unsafe situations in the future.

Jacob McGraw is with “the Michigan Coalition Against Tar Sands” or MI-Cats, the group that organized the protest.  He says the verdict will not stop their fight.

“I can guarantee you that you haven’t seen the last of the MI-Cats…as long as tar sands are flowing through this state we’ll be out there fighting it.  Everywhere,” says McGraw.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Radio since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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