NICk Tilsen Files Motion to Dismiss Case, Citing Prosecutorial Misconduct and Constitutional Violations

July 3, 2021

NICk Tilsen Files Motion to Dismiss Case, Citing Prosecutorial Misconduct and Constitutional Violations

The motion filed by Tilsen states that the Pennington County Attorney's Office's actions to punish Tilsen for his constitutionally-protected free speech violated his rights to due process and equal protection, chilled his First Amendment rights, and violated his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial.

For Immediate Release: July 2, 2021

Rapid City, SD — On Friday, July 2, Nick Tilsen, president and CEO of NDN Collective, filed a motion to dismiss charges filed against him by the Pennington County Attorney’s Office (PCAO). This motion comes in response to PCAO’s recent statement that it intends to prosecute Tilsen again, after initially saying it would dismiss the charges against Tilsen in exchange for his participation in a pre-trial diversion program, retreating from this initial offer in a retaliatory response to Tilsen exercising his right to free speech, and then delaying any further response for three months.   

“This entire prosecution has been motivated to limit my First Amendment rights, to limit First Amendment Rights of Native people in this community when we speak out,” said Nick Tilsen, president and CEO of NDN Collective at a press conference on Friday. “It was immediately following the diversion meeting that I expressed my feelings to the media about this prosecution. The State Prosecutor didn’t like what I said to the media. He did not like the tone I used in the media and he didn’t like the way I communicated my message to the media.”

Watch the Full Press Conference

The motion filed by Tilsen states that the PCAO’s actions to punish Tilsen for his constitutionally-protected free speech violated his rights to due process and equal protection, chilled his First Amendment rights, and violated his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial. The motion argues for dismissal of all charges against Tilsen on the basis of the PCAO violating Tilsen’s constitutional rights throughout the negotiation process. 

“It has been a year since I was incarcerated and I have not seen a day in Court,” said Tilsen. “I have not actually went to trial here in this community.”

The original charges against Tilsen were filed last summer, when 21 Indigenous people and allies — including Tilsen — were met with force by the state police and arrested for protesting Trump’s rally at Mt. Rushmore. Though Trump and his group were violating multiple treaties with their presence, including one through the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the land defenders faced multiple charges. Tilsen himself was facing the harshest charges, including a felony and up to 17 years in prison.

In July of 2020, Tilsen and NDN Collective publicly denounced the Fourth of July holiday and Mount Rushmore to the media. Screenshot from Tilsen interview on MSNBC, July 2, 2020.

The prosecutor has abused their position of power and privilege to try to silence myself and try to silence others,” said Tilsen. “As we were combing through the details we found several violations that were not only Constitutional violations, but ethical violations, things that prosecutors shouldn’t do. Prosecutors are not allowed to engage in vindictive prosecution.”

Also speaking at the press conference, Hermus Bettelyoun, Oglala Lakota community member, announced a solidarity rally and march on Sunday, July 4, in Rapid City, protesting law enforcement’s treatment of all Native people. Bettelyoun decried all local law enforcement agencies for their treatment of the Native population, “from unhoused relatives to our defenseless on the streets getting picked on, all the way up to people like Nick, who take a political stance,” Hermus said.  “Let’s take a stand against the way police department and law enforcement agencies target and criminalize our communities.”

The rally will start at 5:30 pm at Hailey park on Sunday, July 4, in Rapid City, and the march will commence there at the park and conclude at the Pennington County Jail. 

###

** To request a copy of the motion, contact [email protected] **

About NDN Collective

NDN Collective is an Indigenous-led organization dedicated to building Indigenous power. Through organizing, activism, philanthropy, grantmaking, capacity-building, and narrative change, we are creating sustainable solutions on Indigenous terms.

January 2023 Edition

Stay Informed. Take Action.

Subscribe to the NDN allies newsletter

Sign up to get our newsletter. Delivered once per month.

We care about the protection of your data and would never sell your email or share it with anyone without your permission.

Doubling Down for LANDBACK: Q & A with Nick Tilsen After 2.5 Year Legal Battle Comes to an End Posted 1 month ago
In this Q & A interview, Nick shares some of his reflections and big picture takeaways from the past two and a half years. Nick faced up to 17 years behind bars after a #LANDBACK protest in the Black Hills on July 3, 2020.
NDN Collective Announces Community Action Fund Grant Partners Posted 1 month ago
“NDN Collective is honored to invest in the self-determination and leadership of these organizations, collectives, organizers, and cultural practitioners. They are on the frontlines defending our communities from resource extraction, combating the polluters fueling climate change, and standing up for the human rights of Indigenous peoples."
NDN Collective Shares Program Intention of Collective Abundance Fund Ahead of Official Launch Posted 1 month ago
“While this financial commitment is unprecedented and significant, funding alone won’t solve the racial equity gap. Movement building must continue. Policy and advocacy work must continue to disrupt, dismantle, and shift the economic systems that don’t work for us. We can all play a part in that.”
All Charges Dismissed Against Nick Tilsen in 2.5 Year Long Case Posted 2 months ago
“My case held a mirror up to the so-called legal system, where prosecutors – fueled by white fragility and fear of Indigenous power – wasted years of state resources to intimidate, criminalize, and violate me. The fact that I’ve gone from facing 17 years in prison to all charges dismissed is not a coincidence or an act of justice – it’s evidence that the charges were bogus from the start."
NDN Collective Announces 2022 Community Self-Determination Grantee Partners Posted 2 months ago
“This cohort of grantee partners represents some of the most impactful work happening across Turtle Island—defending the air, land and water; developing Indigenous economies based on regenerative principles; and revitalizing our languages, cultures and ceremonies in ways that illuminate the path for the next generations.”
NDN Collective & Rewiring America Release IRA Memo for Tribes & Indigenous Communities Posted 2 months ago
Households could save $140,000 on energy bills over 25 years with efficient energy infrastructure – which would both help build Indigenous wealth, and help families divest from the volatile oil and gas markets. 
NDN Collective Statement on COP27 Negotiation Outcomes Posted 2 months ago
"We call on nation states to sever their relationships to the fossil fuels industry, fully commit to phasing out of fossil fuels, and utilize the core tenets of a Just Transition. Anything less is a failure to all of humanity.”
NDN Collective Responds to Mass Shooting of 2SLGBTQIA+ Relatives in Colorado Springs Posted 2 months ago
"As 2 spirit and queer individuals we long for spaces that are safe. We long for spaces that we can show up in and be our unapologetic queer selves without the fear of persecution. What happened to our relatives in Colorado is a violation of that sacred space and only triggers a more profound hyper vigilance of our spaces, our communities and of ourselves."
COP27: NDN Collective's Recap of Week One at the United Nations 27th Annual Conference of the Parties (COP) in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt Posted 2 months ago
"Our delegation has been participating in the Indigenous Peoples Caucus and the Local Communities Indigenous Peoples Platform, as well as tracking negotiations, meeting with government officials, and more."
COP27: NDN Collective Meets with White House Climate Advisor Posted 3 months ago
In their discussion with White House Climate Advisor Ali Zaidi, NDN Collective, alongside frontline Indigenous and Black organizers touched on issue areas including IRA, mining, oil and gas leases.

United like never before, we rise together—arm in arm—to equip all Indigenous Peoples with the tools needed to become architects of our future. Through a holistic approach to infrastructure, funding, advocacy, movement building, and philanthropy we are fostering a world of justice and equity for all people and the planet.