January 22, 2021
Two climate activists who claimed responsibility for millions of dollars in sabotage to the Dakota Access Pipeline are pleading guilty in their resulting federal court cases.
Climate activists Ruby Montoya, 30, and Jessica Reznicek, 39, were each indicted in September 2019 on nine federal charges, including counts for damaging an energy facility, use of fire in the commission of a felony and malicious use of fire. Court records show both women in the past three weeks have agreed to plead guilty to a single charge of conspiracy to damage an energy facility, with the remaining charges dismissed. Both are due to be sentenced May 28.
Attorneys for both women declined to comment on their cases.
Montoya and Reznicek, who at the time were affiliated with Des Moines Catholic Workers’ social justice movement, claimed credit in July 2017 for a series of acts of sabotage, including burning five pieces of heavy equipment at a worksite in Buena Vista County in November 2016, and using oxyacetylene cutting torches or gasoline-soaked rags to cut into or burn multiple valves and electrical units for the pipeline around the state between March and May of 2017. The pipeline, which runs from North Dakota to Illinois, began operations in June 2017.
At the time, the women said their “direct action” was needed to protect natural resources and indigenous sovereignty and to stand up against what they felt to be unchecked and lawless corporate power.
“Our conclusion is that the system is broken and it is up to us as individuals to take peaceful action and remedy it, and this we did, out of necessity,” Montoya said.
Damages from the Buena Vista County attack alone were estimated at $2.5 million. Court records state repairs to the pipeline from the other attacks cost more than $1 million.
The maximum sentence for the remaining charge is 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Neither plea agreement specifies the anticipated range of sentences under federal sentencing guidelines.
Both women have a history of activism and protest-related arrests. Reznicek in 2014 was deported from Israel after traveling there to protest on behalf of Palestinians.
The sabotage undertaken by Montoya and Reznicek was controversial even among other activists opposed to the Dakota Access Pipeline, or DAPL. In the aftermath of their public announcement, the Catholic Worker house in Des Moines was raided by the FBI and state legislators passed new laws increasing penalties for similar actions.