OPINION

Water Protector Steve Martinez Taken Back Into Custody For Refusal to Cooperate with Grand Jury

SPECIAL TO DEVILS LAKE  JOURNAL

Bismarck – Water Protector Steve Martinez was taken back into federal custody in Bismarck, North Dakota yesterday following an appearance before the federal Grand Jury. Martinez is also being fined $50 a day for every day he maintains his refusal to give testimony. He continues to stand in solidarity with his Indigenous relatives and Water Protectors by refusing to testify or cooperate with this secretive and unjust process.

More:Water Protector Steve Martinez ordered to be released

On February 24th, after being jailed for 19 days for refusal to cooperate with the Grand Jury subpoena served to him, Martinez said:

"I was served another subpoena before I was released, making it the third one. My lawyers are working hard to keep me from being imprisoned for standing up for my constitutional rights as an American citizen. After having my rights stripped from me, I was imprisoned with no charges for 19 days. Even with the work of our legal team, the chances are high that I will be imprisoned once again for up to 18 months or the duration of the grand jury. I humbly ask for your continued prayers & support as I continue to speak volumes through my silence. Thank you. MNI WICONI, WATER IS LIFE."

Martinez was previously subpoenaed in 2016 to a Grand Jury allegedly seeking information regarding the injuries incurred by Sophia Wilansky in November 2016 at Standing Rock; a now infamous night where law enforcement used fire hoses on Water Protectors in freezing temperatures. Wilansky was gravely injured, nearly losing her arm, and unable to receive emergency medical transport due to the blockades implemented by law enforcement and the State of North Dakota. Martinez acted as a good Samaritan on that night, driving Wilanksy in his vehicle to receive emergency medical care. He was then summoned to appear before a grand jury and refused to cooperate.

More:Indigenous Water Protector Jailed in North Dakota for Refusing to Cooperate With Secret Grand Jury

Four years later, Martinez is once again being targeted by the government and detained for his principled refusal to participate in a secret process that has historically been highly susceptible to politically motivated abuses. "The secrecy of federal grand jury proceedings and the unfettered power and discretion that federal prosecutors have in the proceedings makes federal grand juries ripe for abuse against dissident political activists and their movements," said James Clark, a lawyer with the National Lawyers Guild. "Mr. Martinez's saga with federal grand juries seems to have already been characterized by a number of procedural abuses and irregularities, such as his incarceration last month by a magistrate judge who lacked legal authority to order it," Clark continued. 

Chava Shapiro, a legal worker and supporter of Martinez since 2016 said:

“We are all standing in solidarity with his choice to invoke his constitutionally protected right to silence to the Grand Jury. Political activists know that Grand Juries have historically been used as a tool of political repression against Indigenous people in their efforts to maintain sovereignty, push the United States government to honor treaties, and achieve self-determination for their relatives and nations. The best and safest choice for Steve and for all those who protect the water is to maintain silence in the face of this Grand Jury.” 

K. William Boyer is the Managing Editor of the Devils Lake News Journal. He can be reached at kboyer@gannett.com, or by phone at (701) 662-2127.  

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