New charges coming in pipeline protest case

Original Story published by the Battle Creek Enquirer 

By Trace Christenson

1170890_10151820725606067_844539279_nA Kalamazoo man who sat inside an Enbridge Inc. oil pipeline for a day will face new charges after a judge ruled again Monday the original charges should be dismissed.

Chief Assistant Prosecutor Matt Smith said his office will file charges of resisting police against Christopher Wahmhoff.

Wahmhoff, 35, of Kalamazoo was charged with resisting police and trespassing after he spent June 24 inside a new pipeline near Division Drive and 16-Mile Road in Fredonia Township. He said he was protesting construction of the new Enbridge pipeline designed to carry oil from Griffith, Ind., to Sarnia, Ontario.

The line parellels the one that broke and spilled about a million gallons of oil into Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River in 2010. The company is still working to remove that oil.

Wahmhoff is alleged to have entered the open pipeline before 8 a.m. that morning in June and refused to come out until 5 p.m. to cost Enbridge a day of construction.

He was arrested when he emerged at 5 p.m.

But his attorney, John Royal of Detroit argued that his case should not have been sent to circuit court for trial because Calhoun County sheriff department deputies did not order him to leave the pipe.

“There was never an unequivocal order that you come out forthwith,” Royal argued. “The evidence failed to establish that the officer ever gave the defendant a specific command to immediately come out of the pipe. He was not ordered out of the pipe at all. He only requested him to come out.”

Prosecutors argued that Wahmhoff was ordered out and told he was under arrest but Judge James Kingsley ruled in January the testimony from the district court hearing showed that the officer requested him to come out of the pipe.

Prosecutors disagreed with the judge’s ruling and asked for Kingsley to reconsider. On Monday the judge said he did not make a mistake in his first ruling, said he would not reverse his decision and said the charges were still dismissed.

Smith said after the hearing that he did not expect a different ruling from the judge but the prosecution was still allowed to file charges again and take testimony in district court.

Wahmhoff said earlier he knew he might be charged again and was not surprised.

“I am not at all surprised and I am not expecting a different result,” he said.

Wahmhoff, who has announced he is a candidate for the U.S. Senate as an independent, said after the hearing he expected to continue his protest against the pipeline, although he didn’t know if it would take the form of civil disobedience or legal challenges.

“The situation determines our actions,” he said.

Call Trace Christenson at 966-0685. Follow him on Twitter: @TSChristenson