Rattler (Photo: Jonathan Klett Liminal Films)
Published January 21, 2018
MANDAN, NORTH DAKOTA – A change of plea hearing has been scheduled for Michael Markus, who is known as Rattler, after reaching a non-cooperating plea agreement with prosecutors. Under the agreement, the government will drop the most serious charge and both parties will recommend a sentence of 36 months for the one remaining charge of Civil Disorder.
This is a non-cooperating agreement relating only to Rattler’s own actions and that does not require any testimony or information about anyone else.
Rattler was charged with Civil Disorder and Use of Fire to Commit a Federal Felony Offense, arising from October 27, 2016 protests at Standing Rock. Under this plea agreement, the Use of Fire charge – which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and the possibility of up to 15 years in prison – will be dropped entirely. Prosecutors and the defense will then jointly recommend a sentence of 36 months on the Civil Disorder charge, although the judge does have the have the authority to go as high as five years. There is no minimum sentence. If the judge decides not to accept the agreement the case will continue to trial on both charges.
Rattler made the difficult decision to enter into the plea agreement as he was nearing trial in Bismarck North Dakota, a region that has demonstrated severe prejudice against Water Protectors. A commissioned survey found that 77 percent of potential jurors in Morton County and 85 percent in Burleigh County had already decided that defendants were guilty and many potential jurors have close connections to law enforcement or the oil industry.
Given these limited options and high stakes, Rattler decided to enter into a plea agreement that does include significant prison time but removes the risk of being convicted and sentenced to a 10 year mandatory minimum with a possibility of up to 15 years.
Rattler is an Oglala Lakota who was raised on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. He is a Sundancer and a ceremonial pipe carrier in the Lakota spiritual tradition and a Marine Corps veteran of the Gulf War. At Standing Rock he took on significant responsibilities caring for and protecting others in camp.
Rattler is Akicita – who have been protectors of the people since before Columbus. For him, this role was a natural fit as he is a direct descendant of Chief Red Cloud, who after many successful battles eventually signed the Treaty of Fort Laramie in an effort to protect his people.
Water Protector Legal Collective is deeply grateful to Rattler for his service and his many sacrifices in support of his community and in defense of the water. Please follow the Free Rattler Facebook page for information on how to write to him and support him as he prepares for his sentencing hearing and then as he serves his prison time. Rattler is currently on supervised pretrial release.
The change of plea hearing will be February 13, 2018 and a sentencing date has been set for May 29, 2018 at 11:00 AM, both in Bismarck federal court before Chief Judge Daniel Hovland. Mr. Markus is represented by attorneys Sandra Freeman of Colorado and John Murphy of South Dakota.
This agreement comes shortly after a plea agreement was announced for Red Fawn Fallis. There are four other Water Protectors with pending federal charges preparing for trials in the coming months and over 300 who have pending state charges.
Free Rattler Facebook page
PayPal contribution directly to Rattler
Esquire article featuring Rattler