Unicorn Riot, “Ruby Montoya Case Raises Questions about Cooperation and Movement Lawyering”

By Ryan Fatica, December 2, 2021

Ruby Montoya is doing whatever she can to lighten her punishment after publicly admitting to a string of arson and sabotage attacks against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) in 2017. 

According to a recent article in The Economist, “Montoya agreed to cooperate with the FBI” in fall 2020. During such FBI debriefs, agents typically attempt to solicit information on other activists and pressure co-defendants to testify against each other. (The Economist declined to reveal its source for this information, and in an email to Unicorn Riot, Montoya denied cooperating with the FBI).

Since summer 2021, Montoya’s lawyer has repeatedly filed motions on her behalf asking the court to allow her to file documents under seal—a practice typically avoided by those facing political charges in an effort to be transparent about engagement with law enforcement and the courts. In a motion in federal court in August, Montoya claimed she was coerced into taking action by her co-defendant Jessica Reznicek, members of the Des Moines Catholic Worker Community and others, and that she felt forced into pleading guilty to the charges against her by her former attorney.

On June 30, Reznicek was sentenced to 8 years in prison after accepting a non-cooperating plea deal.

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