Op-Ed | Blackmail by plea bargain

BY ELIIDA LAKOTA

Chase Iron Eyes is a member of the Standing Rock Nation in North Dakota. He is an attorney, an Indian activist and a member of the Lakota People’s Law Project. He was a Democratic candidate who ran for his North Dakota congressional district in 2016, and he is a member of an organization called “The Last Real Indians.”

The mission of this group is to preserve native languages, traditional ceremonies, identity, self-sufficiency and the resources of Mother Earth. Membership is not based on percentage of native blood.

Iron Eyes and a group of water protectors had gathered at Standing Rock to protest and pray for the Creator to protect their water. They chose a site away from the previous protest site in order to avoid trouble. They were not trespassing. It is impossible for them to trespass on Indian land. But local police and security people used force in an attempt to break up the gathering, and a riot ensued. Iron Eyes was arrested for inciting a riot and trespassing. Altogether, about 800 people were arrested.

Iron Eyes fought to have evidence released that was related to the charges against him. The evidence, including videos and police radio communications, was withheld and some was “probably” destroyed after it had been requested, according to the local sheriff.

As individuals have come to trial, most charges have been reduced or dropped due to lack of evidence. Many others are awaiting plea bargains. Several months ago, the prosecutor offered Iron Eyes a plea bargain. Although he’s innocent, he is tempted because if he loses and is convicted, he could face a possible six-year prison term and the loss of his law license.

Iron Eyes said, “I am ambivalent about accepting a plea deal, but I have to make decisions that are beneficial to my family. At this point, I’m feeling a sense of accomplishment and a sense that we’ve reached a measure of the mission to uncover and achieve truth and justice in my criminal trial.”

Another factor weighing toward accepting a plea is that 80 percent of jurors in the case admitted they saw the water protectors as outsiders who were agitating their quiet state. In other words, they are biased against the water protectors.

Water protectors in North Dakota have been attacked by local and private military contractors using operations like those seen in wars. It was evident the water protectors were true patriots when American veterans stood with them at Standing Rock.

The conflict at Standing Rock has cost taxpayers millions of dollars – millions of dollars to protect oil companies, millions of dollars to suppress peaceful protest in a country founded on freedom of speech.

How do you get people to vote for politicians who work to line the pockets of corporations and the wealthiest 3 percent of Americans at the expense of the multitudes? Justice, it turns out, can be denied!



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