Description: Criminal action against protester who turned off valve on oil pipeline in Washington.
People v. Ward
Filing Date Type File Action Taken Summary 06/23/2017 Order Defendant sentenced. On June 23, 2017, a Washington Superior Court sentenced Ward to two days in custody (which he had already served), 30 days of community service, and six months of community supervision. The Climate Disobedience Action Fund’s press release indicated that the State would not re-file the sabotage charge and that the State could still file for restitution. 06/07/2017 Verdict Verdict issued. Climate Activist Convicted and Sentenced for “Valve Turning”. On June 7, 2017, a Washington state court jury convicted climate change activist Kenneth Ward of second-degree burglary but could not reach a verdict on a related sabotage charge in connection with Ward’s breaking into an oil pipeline facility and turning off a valve to shut off the pipeline. In a press release after the verdict, the Climate Disobedience Action Fund said: “There is no dispute about the facts in the case. Ward freely admits he closed an emergency valve on a tar sands pipeline to prevent harm to the climate, as part of a coordinated action in four states .… What is disputed is whether it is just or legal to convict Ward of felony crimes for acting peacefully and responsibly to prevent greater harm to the climate.” The press release noted that the court did not allow Ward to present a “necessity defense” to justify his actions with evidence regarding climate change-related harms stemming from the tar sands. 05/10/2017 Ruling Motion to reconsider denied. Washington Court Ruled Again That Necessity Defense Was Not Available to Climate Activist. A Washington Superior Court ruled for a second time that a climate change activist who entered a pipeline facility and turned off a valve to stop the flow of oil could not present a necessity defense at trial. The court initially ruled that the defendant could not rely on the necessity defense in January 2017; the defendant’s first trial subsequently ended in a mistrial. The defendant—charged in the second trial with sabotage and burglary—asked for reconsideration, arguing that the court had erred by incorporating an “imminence” element into the defense, requiring the potential for immediate harm. The defendant further argued, however, that if given the opportunity he could establish the imminence of harm from climate change. The defendant also argued that the court erred in ruling that he had reasonable legal alternatives and that he had not actually avoided or minimized the targeted harm. In opposing the motion for reconsideration, the State of Washington said that given the defendant’s “grandiose depiction of impending doom, it seems we are indeed fortunate to still be alive to argue the matter further more than six months after the defendants’ actions.” The State also said that the defendant’s actions had not avoided any harm and that he could not qualify for the necessity defense because his actions were planned ahead of time. The trial was scheduled to begin on June 5, 2017. 05/05/2017 Response Download Supplemental response filed by State to defendant's motion to reconsider. 04/27/2017 Motion Download Motion to reconsider filed. 02/01/2017 Verdict Mistrial declared. Mistrial Followed Washington Trial Court’s Rejection of Necessity Defense in Climate Protester Case. In January, a Washington trial court denied a request by a defendant to use the necessity defense against charges of burglary and criminal sabotage in connection with his breaking into a Trans Mountain oil pipeline facility and turning off a valve to shut off the pipeline. The court was reported to have said that the necessity defense standard required the threat posed “to have some immediacy, some imminence, more so than this particular threat and harm, which is climatic change, global warming, whatever.” On February 1, the court declared a mistrial after a jury was unable to reach a verdict. The defendant said that he took the actions “because I believe that it is the obligation of every thinking person to find a way to stave off climate cataclysm, and there is no effective, legal alternative to personal direct action.” The charges were refiled later in February. The defendant again pleaded not guilty on February 17, 2017.