FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | April 9, 2015
Contact: Sandra Steingraber, 607-351-0719
photo: http://www.wearesenecalake.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/dix2015_04_08.jpg [Defense attorney Joseph Heath and Seneca Lake defendant Catherine Johnson, 53, of Ithaca, outside Town of Dix Court, 4/8/15]
Charges Dismissed “in the Interests of Justice” for Five More Seneca Lake Gas Protesters in Town of Dix Court
Watkins Glen, NY – On Wednesday night in the Town of Dix Court, Judge Alan E. Gregory granted a motion to dismiss all charges “in the interests of justice” brought by five We Are Seneca Lake protesters. All had been arrested as part of a sustained civil disobedience campaign at the gates of Crestwood Midstream. The protesters were charged with the violation of trespass.
Dix is the third court to grant such dismissals. On March 18, charges were dismissed for 42 protesters in the Town of Reading Court, and, on March 25 in the Town of Hector Court, charges were dismissed for 11 protesters.
The We Are Seneca Lake campaign opposes the expansion of gas storage in abandoned lakeside salt caverns owned by Crestwood.
About 85 additional civil disobedients, also charged with trespassing and disorderly conduct relating to protests at Seneca Lake, still have cases still pending.
The defendants who appeared before Judge Gregory submitted an oral motion asking for dismissal of their charges. As did defendants in Reading and Hector, they read from a statement that said,
We only have this planet. We must safeguard it for those who follow. Would that it not be necessary, but sometimes citizens of good conscience must engage in non-violent acts of civil disobedience to protect that sacred trust. As long as Crestwood Midstream Partners, or any other corporate or public or private entity, continues to threaten our way of life by the proven dangerous storage of highly compressed gas in the crumbling caverns at the Salt Point facility, I reserve the right to act as my conscience dictates in order to protect Seneca Lake, its citizens, and the surrounding environment. I reserve all rights to protest further at the Crestwood facility, although it is not my intent at this time to break the law in doing so.
Assistant district attorney Matt Hayden expressed his willingness to accept a motion to dismiss. Judge Gregory granted the motion and dismissed the charges “with prejudice.”
Defense attorney, Ray Schlather, a member of the legal defense team who advised the protesters and who negotiated the mass dismissal agreement, said in a short statement to the court that he was proud of the Seneca Lake defendants. Not only had they acted on principle on behalf of “protection of the environment,” but, he added, they also had defended “the integrity of the judicial system itself.”
Referring to the risks that Crestwood’s gas storage plan poses to the community, Schlather said, “Extreme threats warrant extreme measures.”
Defense attorney Joseph Heath, also a member of the pro-bono legal defense team, was visibly moved after the court proceedings, He said, “Last month marks the beginning of my 41st year as a lawyer. During that time I’ve handled over a dozen different sets of civil disobedient defendants. And in that 40 years, this dismissal, along with the several hundred others, is one of the high points of my legal career. Because it’s recognizing that the citizens are right and that what they’ve done out there and the jeopardy they’ve put themselves in is the right thing to do, For once, the court system has responded with justice. This message needs to go to both Albany, to Governor Cuomo, to stop this insanity, and to Crestwood, in Houston, to take their plans someplace else.”
Protester Catherine Johnson, 53, of Ithaca, said, “We’d be crazy not to protest right now, given the pollution and destruction that would come with this project. We have to do what we just did. I’m pleased the charges were dismissed. That was justice today. Further justice is to stop Crestwood.”
Protesters whose charges were dismissed last night were:
James “Jimmer” Bond, 28, Hector, Schuyler County
Jeff de Castro, 61, Trumansburg, Tompkins County
Timothy Dunlap, 60, Hector, Schuyler County
Catherine Johnson, 53, Ithaca, Tompkins County
Elizabeth Peet, 47, Hector, Schuyler County
Read more about the arrested protesters at http://www.wearesenecalake.com/seneca-lake-defendes/.
Read more about widespread objections to Crestwood’s gas storage plans: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/26/nyregion/new-york-winemakers-fight-gas-storage-plan-near-seneca-lake.html?_r=0