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Frac sand protesters found guilty in Winona, but aren't done protesting

Posted by: Updated: February 7, 2014 - 2:15 PM

The protesting isn't over even though 20 frac sand protesters were found guilty in Winona this week of misdemeanor trespassing when they blocked sand processing operations last spring.

At least two of those found guilty said Friday they won't be paying the $200 court-ordered restitution. Winona County District Judge Jeffrey Thompson sentenced all 20 to one year of unsupervised probation and ordered them to stay away from the sand processing plant and commercial harbor where they protested. He ordered each to pay $85 in court fees and $200 that would go to the companies involved, Brandt Valley Excavating and CD Corp., which runs Winona's commercial harbor.

"I have no intention of paying the fine what so ever," said Dan Wilson, 25. "I will send a check for $85 of court costs and a letter to the judge, explaining that I don't feel it's OK to support companies that very actively destroy the ecosystem and environment of southeastern Minnesota."

Diane Leutgeb Munson, a 32-year-old baker at Winona's Blue Heron Coffeehouse, doesn't plan to pay the $200 either "and I would say many members of our group share that sentiment."

She said she thought her defense attorney had proven the three components that allow for legal trespassing, but the judge refused to let the six-person jury consider that so-called necessity defense. Most of the defendants admitted protesting and refusing to leave when told to do so.

"The end verdict wasn't the goal for us in the first place," Munson said. "We feel like we achieved a lot of the things we were aiming to do, which was raise awareness and inspire more people to be involved in the issue."

Wilson, who works as an advocate for migrant workers in Arizona, says he broke the law because there was a greater danger by allowing frac sand excavation.

"This was just another step in our journey together as a community," Munson said.

She said they have 90 days to pay the fine. Then she believes the matter will be sent to court collections without triggering a warrant as a probation violation.

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