Judge fines Virginia couple who allowed tree-sitters on farm

Published: May. 16, 2018 at 6:02 AM EDT
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A federal judge has found a Virginia couple who own a farm in the path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline in contempt of court after protesters took to trees on their property.

The Roanoke Times reports U.S. District Court Judge Elizabeth Dillon determined Tuesday that Carolyn and Ian Reilly took both passive and active steps to support the tree-sitters' goal of blocking pipeline construction.

In the 18-page opinion, Dillon concluded "the Reillys have offered both material assistance and encouragement to people who are interfering with MVP's ability to conduct its construction activities."

"The court understands that the Reillys and others are disappointed and frustrated with the situation and the results of their opposition thus far," Dillon wrote. "But they have resorted to actions that clearly violate this court's order and MVP's rights under it."

The judge did not sanction Carolyn Reilly's parents, Betty and David Werner, who co-own the property.

The Reillys were fined $1,000 each.

The newspaper reports it was not immediately clear whether the penalties would force the removal of a lone tree-sitter. Two other protesters came down voluntarily while the legal dispute played out.

Dillon did not find the tree-sitters in contempt. She said there was insufficient evidence identifying them, or indicating whether anyone who remains in a tree stand received proper notice of the judge's order.

Terry Frank, an attorney for the Reillys, declined comment.

Tree-sitters have popped up along the pipeline's route in West Virginia and Virginia.