A Native American activist followed her mother’s footsteps to Standing Rock. Now she faces years in prison.


Part 11

Oglala Lakota Sioux activist Red Fawn Fallis pleaded guilty to two federal felonies, all but assuring she will receive a substantial prison sentence.

After spending a year in jail awaiting trial, Oglala Lakota Sioux activist Red Fawn Fallis pleaded guilty last week to two federal felonies related to her arrest while protesting the Dakota Access pipeline. As part of the plea agreement, prosecutors dropped the most serious charge against her, which would have carried a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence with the possibility of life imprisonment.

Fallis was arrested on October 27, 2016, during a large-scale law enforcement operation to evict pipeline opponents from a camp alongside North Dakota Highway 1806. After officers tackled Fallis and pinned her on the ground facedown, they allege that she fired three shots from a revolver underneath her stomach, which did not result in any injuries. Last month, The Intercept revealed that the gun in question belonged to a paid FBI informant who was in a romantic relationship with Fallis. The informant, Heath Harmon, had infiltrated the protest camps starting in August 2016 and was near Fallis’s side for much of the day leading up to her arrest.

In this Dec. 8, 2017, file photo, Red Fawn Fallis, of Denver, stands outside the federal courthouse in Bismarck, N.D. A federal judge is refusing to delay the upcoming trial of Fallis, who is accused of shooting at law officers during protests in North Dakota against the Dakota Access pipeline. She’s pleaded not guilty to federal civil disorder and weapons charges. Her trial begins Jan. 29, 2018., in Fargo, N.D. PHOTO/Tom Stromme/The Bismarck Tribune via AP, File

Red Fawn Fallis stands outside the federal courthouse in Bismarck, N.D., on Dec. 8, 2017.

As a condition of the plea bargain, federal prosecutors dismissed the count of discharge of a firearm in relation to a felony crime of violence, and the state of North Dakota, which had previously charged Fallis with attempted murder, agreed not to reinstate or pursue any charges related to the incident. Prosecutors have recommended Fallis receive a seven-year sentence, although U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland can still impose up to 10 years in prison based on Fallis’s guilty plea to civil disorder and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Fallis’s attorneys are recommending a sentence of 21 to 27 months, including one year of time served.

In a statement explaining Fallis’s decision to accept the plea deal, the Water Protector Legal Collective cited several negative pretrial rulings issued by Hovland, as well as the likelihood of jury bias based on a survey of potential jurors revealing strong antagonistic feelings toward anti-pipeline protesters. U.S. Attorney David Hagler declined to comment for this story. A Morton County Sheriff’s Department spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

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