One week prior to trial, the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office has abandoned its plans to prosecute the remaining Resist the Pipeline defendants, downgrading all criminal charges to civil infractions and moving the cases out of its jurisdiction. The defendants, who had blocked construction of Spectra Energy’s West Roxbury Lateral Pipeline in Boston, will appear in court Tuesday for a brief proceeding similar to a traffic ticket hearing. A statement from the Climate Disobedience Center appears here.
The decision not to prosecute comes on the heels of the defendants’ pretrial disclosure of a strong roster of expert witnesses, including climate scientist and former NASA head James Hansen and 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben. The witness list had hinted at the defendants’ plans to present a necessity defense at trial. The District Attorney’s decision also follows Judge Mary Ann Driscoll’s request, in a prior stage of the case, for a safety plan that Spectra was unable to produce. The company had initially claimed to have such a plan but later admitted that there was none.
While validating the strength of the defendants’ legal arguments, the District Attorney’s abandonment of the cases denies the defendants their day in court. Climate Defense Project was part of the legal team for the cases and will continue working to ensure that climate activist defendants are given the full and fair jury trials that they deserve.