Impact of DAPL court cases

The protests associated with the Dakota Access Pipeline resulted in hundreds of arrests.

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Fast forward one year, and the piles of court cases have become overwhelming for the county and defense attorneys.

Morton County public information officer Maxine Herr says more than $700,000 have been racked up in litigation costs. She says that number is only personal cost for extra personnel the Morton County State's Attorney's Office had to hire to help with the DAPL cases.

There are more than 800 defendants. Many of them are paying for travel costs to come to North Dakota to settle their cases.

I spoke to a defense attorney who has worked closely with many of the protestors, he says there's a big question about what the point of going forward with these cases even is.

More than seven months of protests brought about hundreds of arrests.

"The vast majority of people that were arrested and charged, and had cases and still have cases pending, are non-violent protesters. Totally victimless crimes," said Sam Saylor, attorney.

This brought a high volume of cases, and according to the Burleigh County trial court administrator, this is how the cases are split up as off this week: 519 closed cases, 12 of which are closed misdemeanor, meaning they took a plea deal, and 10 are closed not guilty. The rest did not have to go to court. 96 inactive, meaning there are arrest warrants in place for these people. 3 on appeal to the supreme court. 201, open cases and two cases have been re-opened.

"It's being drug out for a long time. And it is taxing on the staff to have to continue to work through these but we are making it," said Herr.

Saylor says the amount of cases is an organizational nightmare.

"What is the point they're really trying to vindicate at this point? What is the reason for going on with these cases? I'm just not sure. It is costing the taxpayer’s money," said Saylor.

Herr says the case load made them change the way they track these cases.

"We felt it was important to review that data, the outcome of those to get a picture then just the raw data shows," said Herr.

She says she doesn't know how much this change will cost the county yet.

Saylor says it's highly important for defense attorney's to stay organized with all these cases, and for each defense to be explored thoroughly so everyone gets their due process.