BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Law enforcement officials in North Dakota say they aren’t to blame for a severe arm injury a New York City woman sustained while protesting the Dakota Access oil pipeline and that public statements they made blaming her weren’t aimed at damaging her character.
They’re asking a federal judge to throw out a lawsuit that Sophia Wilansky filed in November seeking millions of dollars in damages for alleged excessive force, assault, negligence, emotional distress and defamation.
Defense attorneys argue in court documents filed this week that Wilansky has no plausible evidence that her civil rights were violated.
Wilansky was injured during a violent November 2016 clash between protesters and police during the unsuccessful months-long protest in southern North Dakota against the $3.8 billion pipeline. Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners built it to move North Dakota oil to a shipping point in Illinois, which it began doing in June 2017.
Wilansky, 21 at the time, suffered a left arm injury in an explosion and has since had five surgeries. Protesters allege the blast was caused by a concussion grenade thrown by officers, but police maintain it was caused by a propane canister that protesters rigged to explode. Who is right is still unknown.
Wilansky last November sued local and state law enforcement officials and Morton County in federal court, alleging that an unknown law officer threw a flashbang device directly at her, and that officers laughed rather than help her as she lay on the ground in agony.
The defendants “deny any explosive device was fired at or near (Wilansky) by law enforcement, and deny defendants bear any responsibility for plaintiff’s alleged injuries,” county attorney Shawn Grinolds wrote.
Wilansky also says law enforcement made untrue and defamatory public statements about her allegedly carrying an explosive device.
Statements about news events released to the public by law officers as part of their official duties “are entitled to absolutely immunity,” Assistant Attorney General Nathan Svihovec and state Solicitor General Matthew Sagsveen wrote. They also noted that Wilansky’s father, Wayne, has given interviews to the news media detailing her side of the story.
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