A judge in North Dakota has accepted a plea bargain for Red Fawn Fallis, a member of Denver’s indigenous community who was arrested on October 27, 2016, during demonstrations at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation.
Fallis was one of hundreds of "water protectors" arrested during the protests at Standing Rock — which were in opposition to the construction of an oil pipeline through Native lands — but she faced some of the most serious charges, at one point including the possibility of life in prison related to an incident in which she was tackled by law enforcement officers and a gun was discharged multiple times.
According to the plea deal that U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland approved on Monday, January 22, in a courtroom in Bismarck, Fallis has pleaded guilty to two felonies: civil disorder and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
In return, federal prosecutors have dropped the more serious weapons charge (discharging a firearm in relation to a felony crime of violence), which carried a minimum sentence of ten years in prison.
The next step is a sentencing hearing, which will take place sometime between April and June. Fallis’s defense attorney, Bruce Ellison, has said he will advocate for a sentence of 21 to 27 months, but federal prosecutors might push for a term of 46 to 57 months.
Judge Hovland has agreed to hear testimony from a handful of witnesses at the sentencing hearing to help him make his decision.
For Denver’s indigenous community, Monday’s courtroom developments signaled a resolution to the #FreeRedFawn movement, which had caught on nationally but was centered in the Denver area, where Fallis and some of her family members reside. #FreeRedFawn iconography and messaging has featured prominently at local demonstrations — including when protesters shut down a branch of Wells Fargo Bank last February — and there have been multiple events hosted in Denver to support Fallis and her family members during the fifteen months since her arrest.
The most recent event — a fundraiser for Fallis at the Mercury Cafe — took place on Saturday, January 20. According to Nancy Peters, one of the organizers of the event, over $7,000 was raised for Fallis, and there were impassioned speeches from Glenn Morris of the American Indian Movement of Colorado and a couple of Fallis's family members, including her sisters Wendy Irving and Loma Star Cleveland.
Saturday's event also "very much featured young indigenous community members, speaking up for Red Fawn Fallis’s indigenous rights and the rights of our Mother Earth,” Peters wrote in an email. The speakers included International Indigenous Youth Council members Mia Sage and Terrell IronShell, American Indian Movement of Colorado members Sky Roosevelt-Morris and Tessa McLean, and indigenous poet and activist Eden Nicole.
Fallis's advocates in Denver now await the next news: the date of her sentencing hearing in North Dakota.
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