Women burned holes in Dakota Access pipeline and set fire to equipment, officials say

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Matthew Brown/AP

A second woman was sentenced to prison after the pair caused serious damage to the Dakota Access pipeline, federal officials say.

Ruby Katherine Montoya, 32, of Arizona, was sentenced to six years in prison on Friday, Sept. 23, on a charge of conspiracy to damage an energy facility, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Iowa.

An attorney for Montoya could not be immediately reached by McClatchy News.

Montoya, along with co-defendant Jessica Reznicek, has also been ordered to pay $3.19 million in restitution. A federal judge gave an eight-year prison sentence to Reznicek in June 2021 on the same charge as Montoya.

The two admitted to “using an oxyacetylene cutting torch to burn holes in the pipeline” and “setting fire to pipeline instrumentation and equipment” throughout parts of the pipeline in Iowa, officials said.

The underground Dakota Access Pipeline spans 1,172 miles from North Dakota to Illinois.

U.S. Attorney Richard Westphal referred to the crimes as “domestic terrorism.”

“The seriousness of the (Montoya’s) actions – that occurred multiple times, at different locations, resulting in over $3 million dollars in restitution – warranted the significant prison sentence imposed by the court and should deter others who think of engaging in such criminal acts,” he said in a news release.

It’s unclear why Montoya and Reznicek, who reportedly conspired with others, damaged the pipeline. It has been the center of protests, including by some tribal leaders who said it threatened their well-being.

Others have noted environmental concerns over the pipeline, leading to a judge suspending operations in 2020 so a review could be carried out, The Guardian reported. A federal appeals court later overturned the order.