On Saturday, November 18, Leonard Higgins will stand for a “Mock Trial” at the University of Montana. Leonard was one of five “valve turners” who turned off tar sands oil pipelines. A retired IT specialist for the State of Oregon, he closed the valve on the Spectra’s Express Pipeline in Chouteau County, Montana, on October 11, 2016. He waited for the police and was charged with criminal conspiracy, criminal trespass, and criminal mischief.

The judge in the case has denied Leonard the opportunity to bring climate issues into the trial. Leonard wanted to explain a “necessity defense” to the jury, the idea that he did what he could to stop tar sand oil because it’s a hazard to our existence. Leonard lined up expert witnesses to testify about greenhouse gases and the changing climate, scientists and others who would testify that we need to move as quickly as possible from fossil fuels. The judge said no, and Leonard will go to trial — without the experts — on Nov. 21 in Fort Benton, Montana.

But, with a little help from his friends, Leonard has created the Mock Trial to present his climate change defense as he wanted it to go, unfiltered to the good people of Montana:

Saturday, November 18, 7 p.m.

University Center (UC) Theater on the campus of the University of Montana

Hosted by Shut It Down — Climate Direct Action and 350 Montana

This Mock Trial is theater — with local and regional people playing parts in a scripted drama. It will serve up humor, irony, and lots of truth told in our “post-truth” society. Behind the humor will hover the question, Do we really think there is NOTHING WRONG?

This Mock Trial hearkens back in 2007 when Missoula packed the UC ballroom wall-to-wall to hear hometown Nobel Prize winner Steve Running and NASA climate scientist James Hansen. For many of us, that evening marked the start of the climate movement in Montana. At the Mock Trial, Running will present his own expert testimony alongside Hansen again, using Hansen’s videotaped climate deposition. You’ll also recognize Missoula faith and climate leader Eric Huseth, civil rights lawyer Bob Gentry, and yours truly as the court clerk. It’s going to be a hoot!

Go here to learn more about the valve turners.

We hope you can join us at the Mock Trial.

Jeff Smith, co-chair, 350 Montana