By DAVID PITT
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A federal judge sentenced an Arizona woman on Thursday to six years in prison for using a cutting torch to damage the Dakota Access pipeline in Iowa and setting fire to pipeline equipment in three counties in 2016 and 2017.
The judge also ordered Ruby Katherine Montoya, 32, to pay nearly $3.2 million in restitution together with Jessica Reznicek, a woman who helped her.
Montoya pleaded guilty to conspiracy to damage an energy facility. She admitted to helping Reznicek and others damage the pipeline in several locations in Iowa.
“The sentence imposed today demonstrates that any crime of domestic terrorism will be aggressively investigated and prosecuted by the federal government,” U.S. Attorney Richard D. Westphal said in a statement. He said the seriousness of the actions warranted a significant prison sentence and should deter others who might consider engaging in domestic terrorism.
Reznicek was sentenced to eight years in prison in June 2021 after pleading guilty to a similar charge. She appealed the sentence, but it was upheld by a federal appeals court in June.
Dakota Access, a subsidiary of Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, constructed the controversial $3.8 billion, 1,168-mile pipeline that cuts through North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa, ending in Illinois.
Environmental groups opposed the pipeline, which they said risked an oil spill disaster. Some landowners also opposed the use of eminent domain to force farmers to allow its construction on their land, and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe fought the pipeline, claiming the environmental impact review was inadequate.
Montoya’s attorney did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.