Pipeline protestor has charge dropped after accusation the arresting officer lied

UTV pipeline protest.jpeg

ROANOKE, Va. (WSET) -- A second pipeline protestor has had a criminal charge dropped- this time after accusations the arresting officer lied.

Charge dismissed for Roanoke County pipeline protestor

Back in March, Special Agent James Willett, with the U.S. Forest Service arrested Rafael Snell-Feikema, accusing him of helping to built a platform that blocked a Forest Service Road that led to an area where the Mountain Valley Pipeline was clearing trees for their pipeline.

He was charged with blocking, restricting, or otherwise interfering with the use of a road, trail or gate.

In an affidavit, Willett wrote, “While at LEO Price’s vehicle, FEIKEMA stated to your affiant that he would like to talk with the officers looking at the rope system supporting the pole structure [blocking the road] because he helped rig the rope system holding up the structure.”

Snell-Feikema's attorney, Randy Cargill filed a motion to dismiss the charge, as Snell-Feikema said he didn't take part in building the platform for a protestor known as Nutty.

3 arrested for trying to supply food, water to MVP protester in tree

Nutty spent more than a month on a platform in the Jefferson National Forest, before coming down in late May when she ran out of food.

Cargill's motion argued Willett's body camera shows that Snell-Feikema didn't make those statements to Willett. Cargill wrote, "Thus the “essential fact” in the complaint that Mr. Snell-Feikema admitted that he helped rig the structure was not a fact—it was a falsehood."

Cargill argued, based on that alone, the charge should be dismissed. He wrote, "It was the only allegation specifically linking Mr. Snell-Feikema to actually blocking or interfering with use of the road." Cargill then continued, writing "Thus, there simply was no truthful basis for the material assertion in the complaint and it should be dismissed. A criminal charge built on a lie should meet the fate of all lies—it should be rejected in the strongest terms."

In a separate motion, filed May 31, the United States Attorney for the Western District of Virginia, Thomas Cullen also requested that the charge against Snell-Feikema be dropped.

Tuesday, Judge Robert Ballou dismissed the charge against Snell-Feikema, although the order does not say why he decided to dismiss the charge.

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