This article in the Great Falls Tribune describes the outcome of Leonard Higgins’ sentencing hearing yesterday in Fort Benton:

Leonard was given a three-year deferred sentence and ordered to pay $3,755 in restitution. It was a trial where the judge had prohibited Higgins and his defense attorneys from mentioning climate change. Yet, in the end, the lenient sentence had very much to do with Leonard’s unspoken reason for breaking the law, turning off a tar sands oil pipeline in northern Montana: climate change. Fourteen 350 Montana members drove to Fort Benton to support Leonard and witness the sentencing.

It’s very rare that we see history and actually stand in a place where history is being made. But as I watched and heard Leonard’s attorney, Lauren Regan, speak yesterday about why Leonard turned off a tar sands oil pipeline, I realized I was watching a case “that start(s) in small courtrooms like this one and ultimately make(s) it into the history books.” She said Leonard’s trial was a political trial akin to the Scopes monkey trial, which eventually brought the right to teach evolution in our schools, and other trials that settled tough issues like Japanese internment, bi-racial marriage, reproductive rights, and many others.

Regan told the judge, “Changing beliefs in society are often advanced through the legal system and all of us have the upmost respect for the integrity of that legal process in society’s debate and ultimate acceptance of new concepts including scientific ones like evolution or climate change.”

I would encourage you to read Regan’s entire statement here: It is a work of a very skilled writer and lawyer.

Jeff Smith, co-chair, 350 Montana