EVERETT — State Court of Appeals judges have upheld trespassing misdemeanors for activists who blocked freight trains four years ago in an effort to draw attention to climate change.
A three-judge panel ruled Tuesday that Snohomish County District Court handled the case correctly. The arrests received national attention in progressive media outlets, who dubbed the defendants the “Delta 5” — for the Delta train yard in Everett where their act of civil disobedience took place.
“I don’t think anybody has any regrets or concerns about what we did,” Jackie Minchew, a retired teacher from Everett, said earlier this week. “We feel good about the whole action.”
Minchew was among the four activists who pursued the appeal. They included fellow Everett resident Michael Lapointe, as well as Abigail Brockway and Patrick Mazza, both of Seattle. A fifth woman who was convicted in the case dropped out of the appeal.
The remaining appellants are considering whether to pursue the case — and a disputed defense strategy at the center of it — to the state Supreme Court, Minchew said.
On Sept. 2, 2014, more than two dozen activists entered the Delta yard of BNSF Railway in north Everett without permission. They set up a tripod over an at-grade crossing, idling a long train of oil tank cars.
Police arrested five people — the future “Delta 5” — who were on the tripod or attached to it. Prosecutors charged them with obstructing or delaying a train and second-degree trespassing, both misdemeanors.
The case went to trial in early 2016. Dozens of spectators packed the small courtroom daily in Snohomish County District Court in Lynnwood. TV cameras recorded the proceedings. Bloggers, national reporters and two documentary film crews chronicled the events.
The accused had hoped to use a so-called necessity defense, arguing that civil disobedience was their only option for addressing the harm that fossil fuels are causing the planet. They also sought to highlight dangers to railroad workers.
District Court Judge Anthony Howard allowed testimony to support the use of a necessity defense. Witnesses included a retired chemistry and oceanography professor, a physician who works as a public health officer and a director from the Seattle-based Sightline Institute.
In the end, Howard refused to allow the jury to consider a necessity defense. The judge ruled that the defendants failed to demonstrate they had no reasonable alternative to breaking the law.
A jury acquitted the defendants of obstructing a train but found them guilty of trespassing. They were sentenced to probation and ordered to pay restitution. Four of them later lost an appeal in Snohomish County Superior Court.
Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@herald net.com. Twitter: @NWhaglund.
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