NDN Collective CEO case heads to trial, new charges regarding Keystone protest
RAPID CITY, S.D. — NDN Collective President and CEO, Nick Tilsen, appeared in Seventh Circuit Court, Friday, for a preliminary hearing after his original charges were amended to include an additional felony. He now faces up to 16 years in prison.
Tilsen appeared in court less than a month ago for two felonies and three misdemeanors. He was originally charged with second-degree robbery and simple assault of law enforcement. Now, a second count of simple assault against an officer has come forth.
An investigator with Pennington County Sheriff’s Office has filed an official complaint against Tilsen accusing the social justice activist of almost hitting him with a van that was seen parked in the center of U.S. Highway 16A outside of Keystone during the July 3 presidential fireworks show. Though video exhibits offered by State’s Attorney did not clearly show the moment in which Tilsen may have accelerated his vehicle potentially hitting the investigator.
Deputies testifying against Tilsen could not recall when they began filming using their body cameras so establishing a timeline was a large part of questioning. They also say it’s officer discretion when the camera starts filming.
From the same day in question, Tilsen is accused of stealing a National Guard sergeant’s riot shield. In another exhibit, police body cam footage shows the moment when Tilsen grabs the upper portion of the guardsman’s shield.
In the video, Tilsen appears to “rip” the shield from the victim causing him to fly backwards, while another person held onto him and the victim was held on to by two PCSO deputies. The victim then falls back behind the riot line with PCSO deputies – a tactic practiced by local law enforcement during riot or crowd-control training.
The victim appeared in court claiming Tilsen said something along the lines of, “If you use this [shield] on us, we’ll use it on you.”
She adds that the overall demeanor of the crowds that day, and of Tilsen who’s twice her size, gave her “fear.” She was also the only female officer in the riot line of nearly 30 that day.
National Guard receives annual riot training, but the victim says she’d not been in a situation like this one before in her eighteen years of service. The National Guard was called in on July 1 by Governor Kristi Noem to assist in ensuring a “peaceful protest.”
Nick Tilsen’s newest felony charge is grand theft, in addition to second-degree robbery. But Tilsen can only be charged for one or the other regarding the riot shield.
Tilsen’s original misdemeanor charges include impeding highway traffic, unlawful assembly and disorderly conduct.
The purpose of Friday’s preliminary hearing is to establish probable cause. It was an opportunity for the public to watch as the prosecution and defense cross-examined witnesses, which in this case included three PCSO deputies and the guardsmen testifying against Tilsen for stealing her shield.
After listening to witness testimony and cross-examination, Magistrate Judge Todd Hyronimus found probable cause for the charges and is sending the case to trial by jury due to the nature of the charges. Nick Tilsen is facing at least eight years in prison which could double if found guilty for theft.
A court date will set as early as the week of August 24th.
NDN Collective has hosted prayer circles – as they did again on Friday – in support of Tilsen. They also submitted a petition with over 14,000 signatures demanding all charges be dropped for Tilsen and 19 other protestors facing charges from Independence Day weekend.
The non-profit is also asking the public to call Pennington County State’s Attorney Mark Vargo’s phone or email him to have the charges dropped.
Several of the non-profit’s petitions, below, have received approximately 35,000 signatures according to the group:
- Drop the charges against NDN Collective President & CEO Nick Tilsen
- Drop the charges against the Black Hills Land Defenders
- Petition to close Mt. Rushmore and Return All Public Lands in the Black Hills to the Oceti Sakowin