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Trial underway for pipeline tampering case in far northeast ND

A depot used to store pipes for Transcanada Corp's planned Keystone XL oil pipeline is seen in Gascoyne, North Dakota November 14, 2014. Forum News Service file photo

CAVALIER, N.D.—A trial is underway for two environmental activists accused of attempting to shut down a pipeline that runs through Pembina County in the far northeast corner of North Dakota..

Jury selection in the trial of Michael Eric Foster of Seattle and Samuel L. Jessup of Burlington, Vermont., started Monday and wrapped up Tuesday. The two men were charged Oct. 13 in Pembina County District Court with multiple crimes after law enforcement said the pair interfered with emergency valves on the TransCanada's Keystone Pipeline near Walhalla, about 100 miles north of Grand Forks..

The incident occurred during protests on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Jessup and Foster were a part of Climate Direct Action, a group that said it was standing with the Dakota Access opponents. Members of Climate Direct Action were accused of tampering with Keystone and other pipelines that carry oil from Canada, according to Herald archives.

Jessup is on trial for conspiracy to commit criminal mischief, a Class B felony, and a misdemeanor criminal conspiracy charge. Two other charges were dismissed.

Foster faces the same Class B felony charge as Jessup, as well as a Class B felony count of criminal mischief and two misdemeanor charges—reckless endangerment and criminal trespass. Four other charges have been dismissed.

The trial is scheduled to run through Friday.

The case against Deia Schlosberg, a Montana documentary filmmaker who was arrested with Jessup and Foster, appears to have been suspended.

April Baumgarten

April Baumgarten joined the Grand Forks Herald May 19, 2015, and covers crime and education. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, where her family raises registered Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at Jamestown (N.D.) College, now known as University of Jamestown. During her time at the college, she worked as a reporter and editor-in-chief for the university's newspaper, The Collegian. Baumgarten previously worked for The Dickinson Press as a city government and energy reporter in 2011 before becoming the editor of the Hazen Star and Center Republican. She then returned to The Press as a news editor, where she helped lead an award-winning newsroom in recording the historical oil boom.

Have a story idea? Contact Baumgarten at 701-780-1248.

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