Three women who locked themselves to construction equipment to protest an Enbridge oil pipeline project near Stockbridge, have been freed from jail.
In late January, an Ingham County jury found Barbara Carter, Vickie Hamlin, and Lisa Leggio guilty of trespassing and resisting and obstructing an officer. Upon the conviction, Ingham County Judge William Collette sent the women to jail without bond until sentencing.
Today, Judge Collette gave the defendants credit for time served, and ordered them to serve 13 months probation and pay court and restitution costs. A sentencing report shows restitution to be more than $47,000 for law enforcement during the July 22, 2013 demonstration. The women had faced up to 2 years in prison.
Security was tight in the packed courtroom. Dozens of supporters filed in during the hearings, until the Judge would allow no more. Defense attorneys told the Judge, the defendants are not violent criminals, but selfless people, committed to doing good.
Barbara Carter, the youngest defendant at 22 appeared scared as she entered the courtroom. She apologized to the Judge for her actions, but said she’s committed to environmental justice. “It was a gut reaction and an emotional response to the destruction happening around me. I realized over much thought it wasn’t the best tactic.”
The second defendant to appear, Vickie Hamlin, told the Judge she participated in the July demonstration “out of love.” She added, “The consequences of inaction are far more real than my fear of jail.”
A tearful Lisa Leggio recalled how she missed her grandson's birth while she served time in jail. She told the Judge she was sorry the trial caused an upset. “No disrespect was meant."
An attorney for Leggio and Hamlin says the defendants are ecstatic to be free. Robert Gaecke said, “I don't believe jail is necessarily the best tool to punish people with anyway, but especially not these people, I think they're really happy to be out of jail."
Enbridge released a statement following the sentencings. It says. “Enbridge appreciates its long standing relationship with Ingham County residents and respect the sentencing. Safety is always the top priority on worksites and it’s important that members of the public share this priority for their own safety and for the safety of our crews and contractors. We hope this trial will serve to deter others from creating unsafe situations in the future.””This replacement project is important for people in Michigan because every day, pipelines deliver the energy we need to fuel vehicles, heat homes, power manufacturing and grow jobs. Today, our lives depend on the safe and reliable delivery of energy. Enbridge is part of an energy pipeline industry that is committed to the highest safety standards in the construction and operation of our facilities. About 13 percent of the crude oil that the country relies on is transported through Enbridge pipelines.”