Two women who admitted to intentionally damaging the Dakota Access Pipeline running through Iowa face several federal charges.
The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa says a federal grand jury has charged Jessica Reznicek and Ruby Montoya, with one count of conspiracy to damage an energy facility, four counts of use of fire in the commission of a felony, and four counts of malicious use of fire.
Montoya was recently arrested in Arizona and is awaiting extradition. Reznicek appeared in court and was released pending her trial — which is scheduled for December 2nd.
The two held a news conference outside the Iowa Utilities Board office in July of 2017. Reznicek read a statement that said they tried several actions to stop the pipeline from being completed and transporting oil. She says they turned to vandalism after the other actions failed.
“On election night (2016), we began our peaceful direct action campaign to a Dakota Access construction site and burned at least five pieces of heavy machinery in Buena Vista County, Iowa,” Reznicek said . She says “our action wasn’t much, but we at least stopped construction for a day at that particular site.”
Reznicek says they then looked for a better way to damage the pipeline. “We then began to research to the tools necessary to pierce through a 5/8 inch steel pipe — the materials used for this pipeline. In March we began to apply this self-guided information. We began in Mahaska County, Iowa, using oxyacetylene cutting torches to pierce through exposed, empty steel valves, successfully delaying completion of the pipeline for weeks,” Reznicek said.
Montoya says they were pleased with the way destroying the valves stopped the progress of the pipeline. “After the success of this peaceful action, we began to use this tactic up and down the pipeline, throughout Iowa and a part of South Dakota, moving from valve to valve until running out of supplies,” Montoya says. The two then said they moved back to arson, using tires and gasoline-soaked rags to burned multiple valve sites, their electrical units, as well as additional heavy equipment located throughout Iowa.
The two said they attempted to pierce a valve located in Wapallo County in early May and were disheartened when they discovered the pipeline was already working. The two finished their statement and then pulled a hammer and crowbar from their backpacks and began to tear letters off the Iowa Utilities Board sign behind them. State Troopers quickly moved in and arrested them on vandalism charges.
They were later released and said the FBI raided the the Des Moines Catholic Worker House where they were staying in August of 2017 looking for evidence. Montoya was 27 at the time and Reznicek was 35.
Little was heard of the case until the announcement of the charges against them. The information from the Southern District Attorney’s Office says they face 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted of first charge of conspiracy to damage an energy facility. If they are convicted of the use of fire in the commission of a felony, Reznicek and Montoya face a mandatory minimum 10 years in prison to be served consecutive to the sentence imposed with the other charge.
For each second or subsequent conviction Reznicek and Montoya face a mandatory minimum 20 years imprisonment. If they are convicted of malicious use of fire, Reznicek and Montoya face a mandatory minimum of five years in prison and a maximum of 20 years in prison and not more than a $250,000 fine.
Here’s the information from the U.S. Attorney: Pipeline charges PDF