MANDAN, N.D. – A journalist arrested last year while covering protests over the Dakota Access oil pipeline has been cleared of criminal trespass charges in North Dakota.
Judge Thomas Schneider ruled Friday that Jenni Monet complied with police orders while reporting on the demonstration, the Bismarck Tribune reported .
"It's a great day for journalism and for North Dakota in recognizing the essential role that reporters play in shaping our democracy," Monet said. "Today the court upheld our constitutional right to press freedom, which has never been more important than right now."
Monet was reporting for Yes! Magazine on police clearing a protest camp in Morton County when she and 75 others were arrested on Feb. 1, 2017, according to court records. Police testified the Last Child Camp sat on Dakota Access-owned property across from the main camp, but demonstrators alleged it was treaty land.
Prosecutor Chase Lingle alleged Monet was guilty of criminal trespass for remaining on the property after police ordered the group to leave.
"Journalists have no special right to accessing private property," Lingle said.
Lt. Tom Iverson of the North Dakota Highway Patrol had asked Monet and some others who said they were journalists for their press credentials, Monet said. She said she was the only one who displayed credentials and believed Iverson had consented to allowing her to remain on-site and report. A Beulah officer later arrested her.
Schneider said Monet didn't knowingly break the law when she stayed on the property.
"I believe she thought she was licensed or privileged to be there," he said.
Monet said Friday that journalism is vital in "shining a light where there's darkness, especially in marginalized communities like Standing Rock."
Information from: Bismarck Tribune, http://www.bismarcktribune.com