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Two Iowa activists charged with conspiracy in pipeline sabotage

If convicted of damaging Dakota Access equipment, they face decades in prison

Red-tipped poles and red gates mark access points along the Dakota Access Pipeline in November 2018 through the central Iowa countryside near Cambridge in Story County. Two women who admitted damaging equipment along the pipeline have been indicted in federal court in Des Moines. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Red-tipped poles and red gates mark access points along the Dakota Access Pipeline in November 2018 through the central Iowa countryside near Cambridge in Story County. Two women who admitted damaging equipment along the pipeline have been indicted in federal court in Des Moines. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — Two Iowa activists who admitted to damaging equipment along the Dakota Access Pipeline that crosses Iowa and three other states have each been indicted on nine federal charges.

Jessica Rae Reznicek and Ruby Katherine Montoya, both of Des Moines, are charged in U.S. District Court with one count each of conspiracy to damage an energy facility, four counts of use of fire in the commission of a felony and four counts of malicious use of fire.

The women were indicted Sept. 19, according to a news release.

U.S. Attorney Marc Krickbaum, in a statement, said Montoya was recently arrested in Arizona and remains in jail pending proceedings to determine her appearance in the Southern District of Iowa.

Reznicek appeared in court Monday and was released under special conditions pending trial set for Dec. 2.

The indictment states that Reznicek and Montoya, from 2016 into 2017, conspired to willfully damage and attempt to damage the property of the Dakota Access Pipeline in Iowa, causing more than $100,000 in damages, which resulted in significant interruption and impairment of the pipeline.

The $3.8 billion pipeline crosses North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois.

The women, during a news conference in 2017 outside the Iowa Utilities Board’s offices at the Iowa Capitol complex, claimed they burned construction machinery, cut pipe valves with a torch and set fires with gasoline, rags and tires along the pipeline route. The acts included machinery found extensively damaged by fire in August 2016 at three oil pipeline construction sites in central Iowa near Newton, Reasnor and Oskaloosa.

After their statement, Reznicek and Montoya were arrested by state troopers when they began using hand tools to damage a state-owned sign outside the board’s offices.

Both women, who were involved in Iowa’s Catholic Worker social justice movement, described their sabotage as a “direct action” campaign that began on Election Day, Nov. 8, 2016. They said their first act of vandalism involved burning at least five pieces of heavy equipment on the pipeline route in Buena Vista County in northwest Iowa.

If Reznicek and Montoya are convicted of conspiracy to damage an energy facility, they face up to 20 years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine.

If convicted of use of fire in the commission of a felony, each face a mandatory minimum 10 years in prison to be served consecutively to the conspiracy sentence.

For each second or subsequent conviction of the use of fire charges, the women face a mandatory minimum of 20 years in prison to be served consecutively to the conspiracy charge.

If Reznicek and Montoya are convicted of the malicious use of fire charges, they face a mandatory minimum of five years in prison and possibly up to 20 years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine.

Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com