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On Thursday, the Four Necessity Valve Turners were found guilty of aiding and abetting criminal damage to property under $500. They were sentenced to a $75 fine and a stayed sentence of 15 days (minus time already served) that they will only serve if they violate the terms of probation, which are to remain lawful and avoid all contact with Enbridge and its property. Their action of February 4, 2019, was in defense of water and to serve Indigenous justice and climate justice.


The necessity defense was denied both in the pretrial and during the formulation of final instructions to the jurors -- the point cited by the judge on Thursday was imminence. The Necessity Defense in Minnesota requires that the harm done be less than the impending harm, that all other lawful possibilities be exhausted, that the harm be imminent, and that there is a direct causal relationship between the otherwise unlawful action taken and the impending harm. It seems that spending months evaluating and discarding all other ways to address this harm signals, to the court at least, that climate change is not imminent. In his pre-sentencing statement, Daniel lamented that the court did not value science and speculated that by the time the damage of climate change met the court's definition of imminence, it would be far too late to do anything to reduce the harm.


We have one last ask for you, as we close out this avenue of advocacy:

The night before their trial began, Jason Goward of the Fond du Lac Ojibwe nation prayed over the four, and told his story of quitting his work on Enbridge Line 3. Because he refuses to work for the pipeline and this deadly fossil fuel industry, Jason is currently over $20,000 in debt to unemployment. If you would like to send Jason money to help with his situation, and to thank him for taking a risk for justice, you can do so via paypal.com, using his email, Jasongoward@yahoo.com.

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Today was a beautiful day of testimony by all of the four necessity valve turners. The jury was instructed and opening statements were made.

Brenna led off as she has previously sharing the principles of the Catholic worker and the faith that inspired this action. Her testimony also let us know that there was going to be some significant pushback on the topic of tar sands.

Michele was up next and gave moving testimony, including becoming aware of climate change while working with Christian Peacemaking Teams in Iraq. This is where the objections began from the prosecution. Still, Michele spoke eloquently to the poison of pipelines and the power of the action and role of water protectors. When asked how she could be sure about the content of the pipelines she expressed she was sure it was fossil fuels.

Daniel rounded out the pre-lunch crowd speaking to the science of climate change and the need to act on behalf of the next generation. Daniel pushed back against the objections that it would be impossible to know if the oil moving through the pipeline was tar sands oil.

There was a break for lunch. Following, Allyson talked about the beauty of soil ecosystems and the need to take this action. The banner she made was displayed and she was able to read the statement in our “about“ page verbatim. She was able to speak to tar sands oil as she stated that this was what the valveturners told enbridge— that the tar sands oil had been turned off in pipelines 3 & 4. She also was able to speak eloquently to the safety of the methodology of having enbridge turn off the pipeline. This wrapped up the oral argument and we closed for the day.


The final element of the trial today was a motion to acquit by lawyer Tim Phillips. This motion was based on the principle that no one had been accused of committing the crime -- all four necessity valve turners had aided and abetted the other three. This statement had been made earlier in the day by the prosecution in an effort to open the door to convicting all or any valve turners with taking principle action (committing the misdemeanor individually). The judge is considering this argument overnight and acquittal will be discussed in the morning.

If not acquitted, the closing arguments and final instruction to the jury will be given in the morning and then the jury will go into deliberation until a decision is reached. Follow our twitter feed @4necessity tomorrow for live updates.

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After two and a half years, the trial begins today with jury selection. This is a portion of trial that is often overlooked, but important. The Four Necessity Valve Turners took action believing it was justified by the necessity defense.


That legal principle states that it is reasonable and justified to take typically illegal action in order to prevent greater harm. One of the most commonly cited examples is breaking a car window to rescue a child from an overheating car. It's not ok to break car windows, but in this case, if all the doors are locked, you're not breaking and entering, you're rescuing a child using the only means available.


Because this is a jury trial, a panel of 6 local citizens will hear the arguments and determine whether they believe the charges are appropriate or not. Both sides, the defense and prosecutor, have the opportunity to question and disqualify potential jurors. It is anticipated that this may take the entire day.


Once the jury is selected, what we think of as the trial will begin in earnest.


We are tweeting somewhat more frequently than writing this blog -- you can find us on twitter @4necessity but you can expect daily updates from us in this space.


As a sidebar, we are grateful for all your support, but you may have noticed that we've removed the donate buttons from the site. This is because we have adequate funds for our legal expenses. At this point, we'd encourage you to direct your support to ongoing actions. We recommend Honor the Earth and other #StopLine3 organizations and initiatives.


Thank you so much for your ongoing support!

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