Environment Magazine

Charges Dismissed Against Michigan Pipeline Protester

Posted on the 14 January 2014 by Earth First! Newswire @efjournal
Christopher Wahmhoff was charged with resisting police after he entered a oil pipeline as a protest last summer. The charges were dismissed Monday

Christopher Wahmhoff was charged with resisting police after he entered a oil pipeline as a protest last summer. The charges were dismissed Monday

by Jennifer Bowman / Battle Creek Enquirer

Charges were dismissed Monday against a man who spent a day inside an oil pipeline and is now running for the U.S. Senate.

Christopher Wahmhoff, 35, of Kalamazoo, walked out of a Calhoun County Circuit Court Monday morning after a judge dismissed charges of resisting police and trespassing. He spent a day last summer inside a new pipe to protest against the Enbridge Inc., the company building the pipeline.

“I am pleased and enthusiastic,” Wahmhoff said outside the courtroom. “I doubted this would happen so I am excited to see it happen.”

However, Wahmhoff said he didn’t expect the case to end and late Monday Prosecutor David Gilbert said he will reissue the charges and take new testimony in district court.

Wahmhoff was charged after he spent June 24 inside a new pipeline near Division Drive and 16 Mile Road in Fredonia Township.

Enbridge, the company responsible for spilling more nearly 1 million gallons of oil into Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River after a pipeline rupture in 2010, is replacing the pipeline across Calhoun County.

When Wahmhoff emerged from the pipe he was arrested, charged and later a district judge sent the case to circuit court for trial.

But defense attorney, John Royal of Detroit argued that deputies did not order Wahmhoff out of the pipe or tell him he was arrested before he emerged. He also argued that the property owner and not the deputies had to inform him he was on private property and trespassing.

“There was no clear command or order,” Royal told Circuit Court Judge James Kingsley. “It was a suggestion, a request that he come out of the pipe. He did not fail to comply because he said he would come out at 5 p.m.”

Chief Assistant Prosecutor Matt Smith argued that Wahmhoff was ordered out of the pipe and he was arrested when he did.

But Kingsley, citing testimony by the detective who negotiated with Wahmhoff, said the protester was told “that he needed to come out. I told him I was a police officer and I asked him if he would come out.”

Kingsley said after reading the transcript from the district court that the detective “never clearly advised him he was under arrest. There was never any unequivocal order that you are to come out forthwith and you are under arrest.”

When the judge announced the ruling, about 20 supporters in the courtroom were threatened with jail after they cheered and applauded.

They then went with Wahmhoff to attend his formal announcement for the U.S. Senate.

They gathered across the street from the Battle Creek Air National Guard base after his hearing to publicly announce his candidacy. With a black wooden box — what he called a coffin for the American Dream — at his feet, he criticized big corporations and current politicians and said he would seek to donate all money raised for his campaign.

Wahmhoff, who has not held public office before, confirmed to the Enquirer last week that he would run for Sen. Carl Levin’s seat in 2014. U.S. Rep. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Hills, and former Republican Secretary of State Terry Lynn Land have also said they will run for the spot. Levin announced he will retire at the end of his term.

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