Appeals court upholds 8-year prison sentence for Dakota Access Pipeline protester News
© WikiMedia (Tony Webster)
Appeals court upholds 8-year prison sentence for Dakota Access Pipeline protester

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals Monday upheld a Dakota Access Pipeline protester’s 8-year prison term in a per curiam decision.

The protester, Jessica Reznicek, was charged with and plead guilty to conspiracy to damage an energy facility in 2017. Reznicek used a blowtorch to cut holes in the Dakota Access Pipeline in Iowa. At her trial, the court applied a terrorism enhancement to her charges, allowing for her potential sentence to be extended from 46 months all the way up to 240 months. The court then scaled down and sentenced Reznicek to 96 months in prison followed by a 3-year supervised released, saying that the terrorism enhancement did not factor into her sentence.

Reznicek appealed the trial court’s decision, arguing that the court erred by enhancing the charges. She claimed that her actions were not terrorism as they were directed at a private corporation, rather than the government. The court of appeals disagreed with this argument, stating that “even if [Reznicek’s argument] [wa]s right, any error was harmless. Where a district court makes clear that it would have imposed the same sentence even if an enhancement did not apply, any error in applying the enhancement is harmless.”

Reznicek also argued that her sentence was substantively unreasonable, arguing that the court abused its discretion when determining her sentence. The court of appeals also disagreed with this argument, declaring that “the district court’s 96-month sentence was not an abuse of discretion.” The appeals court reasoned that it was not an abuse of discretion due to the trial court’s careful consideration of every factor of her motivations, actions, and duration for her crimes, including that Reznicek’s actions caused a grave risk to others over a long period of time.