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Suspect in Dakota Access DNA case settles 2 other protest-related cases

BISMARCK — A man charged after authorities say they found his DNA on a cigarette butt that was left at a Dakota Access Pipeline protest site two years ago is set for a preliminary hearing next week but in the meantime has settled two other protest-related cases against him.

The attorney for Lawrence Malcolm Jr. has forwarded written guilty pleas to Morton County prosecutors to settle cases from 2016 and 2017. The pleas must be signed by the State’s Attorney's Office and then approved by a judge. That appears likely to happen, as court records show the cases have been settled and the court dates canceled.

Malcolm has agreed to plead guilty to one misdemeanor count of physical obstruction of a government function in the 2017 case, said his attorney, Bruce Nestor of Minneapolis. Nine other misdemeanors and a felony simple assault charge will be dismissed under the terms of the agreement. Two felony charges and one misdemeanor will be dismissed in a 2016 case in which Malcolm has agreed to plead guilty to misdemeanor trespassing.

The agreement stipulates a sentence of 30 days in jail with enough credit for time served to cover the sentence, Nestor said. Malcolm will not be placed on probation if the agreement is approved as submitted.

The remaining DAPL case against Malcolm, 23, of Sisseton, S.D., was brought in September after investigators say his DNA on a cigarette butt linked him to the scene of a 2016 protest where rioters caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage to construction equipment, an affidavit states. His DNA was on file from a previous arrest.

He was charged with felony conspiracy to commit criminal mischief and misdemeanor conspiracy of engaging in a riot. He turned himself in and made his initial court appearance in October.

Nestor argued in a September motion for dismissal of the charges that it’s impossible to determine where the cigarette butt originated or how long it might have been there.

Malcolm is observed on the riot scene in photos and video, prosecutors said, and a preliminary hearing is “the more appropriate time for addressing probable cause.”

A judge will hear arguments on Thursday and decide if the case should move to trial.

Assistant Morton County State’s Attorney Chase Lingle, who is listed on court documents as the prosecutor in the case, did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.