Pipeline protester's elderly endangerment case dismissed

Authorities have dismissed one of two criminal cases against a Bismarck woman accused of abusing her elderly mother during protests against the Dakota Access oil pipeline.

Kathleen Bennett, 59, was accused of leaving her 82-year-old mother with dementia tied to a chair in a protest camp in North Dakota while she attended demonstrations in December 2016. The mother was taken to a hospital during a blizzard. Hospital staff said she was frail and malnourished.

Bennett in February pleaded not guilty to endangering a vulnerable adult, a felony charge that carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

She was to stand trial next week, but the defense and prosecution agreed Tuesday to dismiss the case with $2,050 in fines forfeited from Bennett's bond, The Bismarck Tribune reported. Authorities said Bennett is in Nevada with limited funds, and there also were difficulties with getting witnesses to the trial.

Bennett also is charged with exploiting her mother by using $1,200 of her money without consent to rent hotel rooms, buy meals and pay legal fees while her mother was hospitalized. She has pleaded not guilty to a felony charge that carries a maximum punishment of five years in prison, and is scheduled for a three-day trial in January.

Court documents indicate the condition of Bennett's mother has improved, and she is living in Nevada under the guardianship of two sons.