First Felony Trial of Line 3 Water Protector to Take Place July 19-21

Judge Refuses to Livestream Bernie Santa Case; A Petition Hopes to Change That 



With the estimated number of open Line 3 court cases against Water Protectors now pegged at less than 30, the first #StopLine3 felony case ever to go to jury trial is slated this week at the Pennington County Courthouse in Thief River Falls, Minnesota.  Bernie Santa (aka Nicholas Engel) faces a felony charge of fleeing law enforcement in a motor vehicle.  

But defense filings indicate that Bernie suspected police harassment and was afraid to pull over on a deserted rural highway in the middle of the night, so merely delayed pulling over until reaching a location with witnesses.  The case will be decided by a jury, and the trial is scheduled to begin Wednesday, July 19, 2023, lasting through the end of the week. 

Late last week, the judge issued a pretrial order finding there is not sufficient public/press interest in the case to justify virtually livestreaming the trial, as well as significantly limiting the evidence that the defense will be able to present. Bernie’s supporters – and those wanting real transparency in this case – are circulating a petition asking the judge to reconsider the decision and livestream the trial. 


Approximately 1,000 people were arrested in northern Minnesota by law enforcement during the construction of Enbridge’s Line 3 tar sands pipeline.  During construction, Enbridge paid Minnesota law enforcement to police Water Protectors and pipeline protestors through a controversial escrow account managed by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. 

Law enforcement – including the DNR – ultimately received more than $8.6 million in Enbridge funds, and have been repeatedly accused of overreach and criticized for excessive surveillance and violent, military-style policing during Line 3 construction. The  Line went into operation in October 2021. 

  • As public briefings set out (available), the State alleges Bernie attempted to flee law enforcement
  • Bernie maintains that he simply delayed pulling over because he wanted to get to a safer place where there would be witnesses to the police interaction, rather than stopping on a deserted rural highway in the middle of the night.
  • The police claim they pulled him over because they “couldn’t tell” if he had valid vehicle registration or not… it is now undisputed that his vehicle had a valid temporary tag which was properly and legally displayed.


  • July 19th, 20th, 21st – starting 8:00 am CST
  • Pennington County Courthouse, 141 Main Ave S, Thief River Falls MN 56701


According to his attorney, Claire Glenn, “Bernie has perennially maintained his innocence, and that this case is an overcharge resulting from police targeting of Water Protectors. This week it will be up to the jury to decide.”  

CONTACT: Martin Keller, Media Savant Communications, 612-220-6515,, @mediasavant