Jan 22

Report-Back: Duncan and Dylan’s Sentencing

Written by a cat.

CATS traveled from great distances to support Duncan and Dylan (D&D) at their sentencing for the August 2014 “Hiss and Scratch” against Enbridge. The outside was nearly freezing, and it began to snow soon after we arrived at the Oakland County Courthouse. D&D arrived dutifully at 8:30am, but the court wasn’t ready for them till about 10am. We all walked into the courtroom and took our seats, and waited for a few minutes as Judge Julie A. Nicholson handled other cases. They were done quickly, and Nicholson was soon ready for D&D.

An "artistic depiction" of the court proceedings in lieu of a photograph (cameras weren't allowed in the courtroom).

An “artistic depiction” of the court proceedings in lieu of a photograph (cameras weren’t allowed in the courtroom).

There isn’t much to say about how court went other than that it went about as quickly as the other cases. Sadly, the court didn’t seem to hold any space for a deeper understanding of why Duncan and Dylan acted… in the eyes of this justice system, dry as bread so stale that it’s brittle and close to crumbling, Duncan and Dylan literally “committed a crime”. Duncan and Dylan were seen, by this justice system, as irresponsible and impulsive youngsters, as opposed to humans of conscience who couldn’t wait and watch as others destroyed the land, environment, and planet. The court seemed especially concerned about Dylan, who was allegedly “unremorseful” about his action. Dylan, though, was allowed to at least say this to the court:

Your honor, I’ve been actively involved in organizing and education in communities surrounding southwest Detroit, the most polluted zip code in Michigan. The crime I pleaded guilty to was an act of civil disobedience, a peaceful form of protest. I never intended to suggest that I would not comply with the court’s orders for my action.

Soon after, Dylan was sentenced to 12 months probation, $480 for probation costs, a $75 “Crime Victim Assessment”, and $175 “State Minimum Costs”, a choice between 10 days in jail or 10 days of work through a “WWAM” program of some sort (of which Dylan chose the latter, which costs an additional $150), verification of employment, and no contact with Precision Pipeline as well as “Enbridge employees and/or worksites”. Even the court-appointed attorney was visibly embarrassed to ask for no contact with Enbridge because she couldn’t identify Enbridge as having any offices in the state of Michigan or anywhere in the US for that matter (though in fact they do have offices in Michigan as well as elsewhere in the US). This was just another case of the state going out of its way to act in the interests of a multinational corporate behemoth.

Duncan was sentenced to 12 months of probation and the same various costs and no-contact stipulations as Dylan, along with 40 hours of community service and to go through an “impulse control program” (as if that’s the cure to stop unruly environmental defenders while Earth is on the brink of collapse). He was offered “HYTA” status, which means that because he’s under 21 years old, he’s eligible to have the offense wiped from his record.


What was perhaps the most disturbing part of the day was the so-called “restitution hearing” that was to happen right after D&D’s sentencing. In restitution hearings, one party allegedly owes another party some money (the “restitution”), and the hearing happens if the two parties cannot agree on how much money is owed. In this case, Precision Pipeline LLC is requesting a restitution of $39,226.30 from D&D. Most notably, this request was presented not by a Precision representative but the court attorney because Precision Pipeline wouldn’t bother paying a representative to come to court. Precision’s project manager for the site of the action, Steven Grice, couldn’t make it to the hearing, because he was off doing something else in West Virginia. Furthermore, Precision couldn’t even be bothered to keep up correspondence with the court attorney in a timely manner.

So, the court attorney ended up asking judge Nicholson, *in the last minute*, to reschedule the restitution hearing to a later date so that Steven Grice could participate via video conference, which the court admitted out loud to not even knowing how to arrange at the time. The court granted that motion, so the restitution hearing has been rescheduled to Tuesday, January 27th, 2015.

The court attorney took the extra mile to defend Precision Pipeline’s right to a restitution hearing, despite that Precision Pipeline couldn’t even be bothered to show up, or even simply to communicate with the court about what their intentions were in a timely manner. And at the technical expense of setting up a video conference just for Precision, to boot, on an entirely different day, at last-minute notice. All this shows that the court attorney either truly believes in Precision’s work for the community (ha!), or rather, that perhaps there’s a financial stake in it for them.


Going Forward

Here are some things you can do to support Duncan, Dylan and MICATS!

1) Spread the word! Write op-eds about the protest and Precision and Enbridge, write to your friends, have conversations! Make plans of your own…

2) Support MICATS financially! Court costs, including the extra expected costs of gas, go to over $2,000. To help with that, go to www.everribbon.com/micats

3) Come support Duncan and Dylan at the restitution hearing! Tuesday, January 27th, at 1:15pm, at 700 Barclay Circle, Rochester Hills, MI 48307

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