Criminal charges against “Democracy Now” radio host Amy Goodman were dropped Monday in North Dakota. Prosecutors had charged her with participating in a riot while she covered a protest against the construction of an oil pipeline there last month.
Judge John Grinsteiner declined to sign necessary paperwork confirming probable cause, which halted the case from proceeding, her lawyer Tom Dickson told The Huffington Post.
Democracy Now declared the dismissal of the charges a “press freedom victory” on Twitter.
The case stemmed from a Sept. 3 altercation where Dakota Access Pipeline guards used pepper spray and dogs against protesters who entered land designated for the controversial pipeline.
Goodman and her team filmed the confrontation and interviewed protesters, including members of the Standing Rock Sioux and other tribes who say the pipeline threatens their drinking water and has disturbed burial grounds and sacred sites.
“I wasn’t trespassing. I wasn’t engaging in a riot. I was simply doing my job as a journalist by covering a violent attack on Native American protesters,” Goodman said in an interview with radio station WNYC’s “The Takeaway” before her court appearance.
Initially, McLean County State’s Attorney Ladd Erickson charged Goodman with trespassing, but on Friday he dropped that misdemeanor charge and replaced it with the riot accusation.
Erickson had claimed that the award-winning Goodman wasn’t acting as a journalist, and instead categorized her with protesters arrested that day for trespassing, according to The Bismarck Tribune.
“The first charge was frivolous. The second was even more frivolous, so unless they’re going for a hat trick, I think this case is over,” Dickson said. “We want reporters to report the news whether we agree with their politics.”
Erickson’s office did not respond to HuffPost’s inquiries.
The pipeline is under construction by Energy Transfer Partners. If it’s completed, it would stretch 1,172 miles from North Dakota’s Bakken oil fields through South Dakota and Iowa before connecting with existing infrastructure in Illinois. It would carry up to 570,000 barrels of oil per day, according to the company.
The pipeline’s future is uncertain, however, because the Obama administration ordered a review of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ decision to allow construction across the Missouri River. This crucial section sits near the Standing Rock Sioux’s reservation.