Arizona Community Press | www.azcommunitypress.org
San Francisco Peaks Defenders Targeted with Federal Charges Coerced into Collateral Forfeiture Agreement
FLAGSTAFF, AZ –Despite wanting to legally fight the charges brought on them by the Coconino County Forest Service, James Anders and Dawn Dyer state that coercion and underhanded tactics by federal prosecutors left them no choice but to sign the agreement. The Flagstaff couple felt ‘Forced’ when threatened with additional charges. James Anders and Dawn Dyer were originally charged with two other individuals in December with two counts of a misdemeanor charge (Section 261.3a) for allegedly interfering with a Forest officer, after about a dozen concerned citizens had entered the Coconino County Forest Service lobby on September 21st to address cultural and health concerns with the agencies’ allowing the use of treated sewage effluent for snow making on the San Francisco Peaks.
Video from September 21st, 2012 action at the Forest Service office:
According to Anders and Dyer the prosecutors threatened to add two more charges, possibly disorderly conduct and littering if they attempted to take the case to trial. Anders was advised that it was likely the judge had pre-determined notions about this case and that he was likely to receive stiffer penalties and higher fines. According to Anders, “It is simply outrageous how the ‘justice’ system works in this country! For simply attempting to address your government, you can be arrested, held, restricted, threatened and extorted. Forest service officials outright lied in their original complaint affidavit and have continued to do so throughout this entire process.”
The couple believes they were charged simply because they had attended previous protests regarding the San Francisco Peaks. According to Dawn, “We were there to show our support, assist in delivering two letters addressed to forest service supervisor Earl Stewart, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsak and others in the Obama administration. We were addressing our government officials, I took a few photos, but otherwise did not even utter a word. We were targeted by one individual in that office because we had attended previous protests.”
Since the charges were brought in December, the couple have had their freedom of movement restricted and were not allowed to attend prayer circles or even travel for any other reason on Snowbowl road. The couple now believes that the reason and timing of the arrests was to keep people from protesting at Arizona Snowbowl during their 75th anniversary celebrations. (Although protests did occur in town that week.) The anniversary celebrations also coincided with the first sewage effluent snow being made on the San Francisco Peaks. Dawn Dyer stated, “I believe this whole thing was truly a violation of our freedom of speech and that it was deliberately done to squash legal protest on the issue.”
The collateral Forfeiture agreement contains a dismissal of all charges without prejudice and no admission of guilt. The couple must agree to pay $200 in court fees and restitution each.
Evan Hawbaker, one of the other individuals being charged, states: “On September 21st, 2012, at a US Forest Service office in Flagstaff, I decided to drive home a point–however small–that I am fed up with the USFS practice of disregarding the legitimate concerns and opposition of many, many Flagstaff residents regarding wastewater snowmaking on the San Francisco Peaks. Now–after decades of struggle and resistance–the Arizona Snowbowl has proceeded to flood, pollute and–in the eyes and hearts especially of my indigenous friends and neighbors–desecrate a place that is special, beautiful, sensitive and sacred to literally hundreds of thousands of people in Flagstaff and the greater Southwest.”