BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A New York City woman who suffered a serious arm injury in an explosion while protesting the Dakota Access oil pipeline in North Dakota lost a legal battle to obtain evidence she wanted to bolster a civil rights lawsuit against law enforcement.
Sophia Wilansky sued the federal government in February, seeking the return of shrapnel and clothing taken from her while she was hospitalized following her November 2016 injury, or an opportunity to have the items analyzed by a forensic scientist of her hiring.
Her father, Wayne Wilansky, willingly surrendered the evidence, but her lawsuit argued in part that the government was keeping the seized property for an unreasonable length of time and violating her constitutional rights.
U.S. District Judge Wilhelmina Wright said in the Monday ruling that “nothing in the written consent imposes a limitation on the length of time.” She added that Wilansky didn’t provide “any evidence or argument as to why she is unable to commence a timely civil action without first obtaining access to or possession of the seized property.”
Wayne Wilansky told The Associated Press late last year that his daughter planned to sue law enforcement for money damages and that the evidence could bolster her case. Calls to his telephone number on Tuesday were not answered. Sophia Wilansky’s attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wright’s decision to dismiss the case.
Federal prosecutors had argued the seizures were legally done and the items were evidence in a grand jury investigation into the altercation in which Wilansky was injured. Prosecutors declined comment Tuesday on Wright’s ruling.
Wilansky was injured during a violent clash between protesters and police that became the emblematic skirmish of the months-long protest in North Dakota that tried to block the pipeline’s final construction phase. The four-state pipeline began carrying North Dakota oil to Illinois in June 2017.
Wilansky suffered a left arm injury in an explosion and had several surgeries. Protesters allege the blast was caused by a concussion grenade thrown by officers, but police maintain it was caused by a propane canister that protesters rigged to explode. The cause is still a mystery, and no one has been charged in the blast.
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