Court report

MOUNT VERNON — A 30-year-old Michigan man was found guilty Friday on three charges related to a 2017 break-in at the Kinder Morgan oil pipeline facility west of Burlington.

Donald Jose David Zepeda was convicted of second-degree burglary and criminal sabotage — both felonies — and third-degree malicious mischief for the Oct. 24, 2017 incident.

Zepeda and another person broke into the facility in an effort to perform what he called in court documents an “emergency shut off” of the pipeline, documents state.

The other person was not charged.

According to court documents, Zepeda was attempting to shut off the valve in honor of the one-year anniversary of a prior effort to shut down the pipeline.

In that incident, Kenneth Ward of Corbett, Oregon, said he attempted to shut down the pipeline to raise awareness about climate change.

Ward was convicted of burglary for the 2016 break-in, but in April the state Division I Court of Appeals granted him a new trial because he was not allowed to have climate scientists and civil disobedience experts testify.

After that decision was appealed by the Skagit County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, the state Supreme Court sided with the appeals court.

The Prosecuting Attorney’s Office is now moving forward with charges against Ward, said Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Rosemary Kaholokula.

Zepeda’s trial lasted a week, with a jury taking about 45 minutes to deliberate Friday morning before reaching a decision, prosecutor Branden Platter said.

“I feel like (the jury) reached the right decision,” Platter said. “This was never about whether climate change was an issue or not. It’s about whether or not he was justified in breaking the law based on his views.”

Zepeda will be sentenced Oct. 16.

— Reporter Kera Wanielista: 360-416-2141, kwanielista@skagitpublishing.com, Twitter: @Kera_SVH, facebook.com/KeraReports

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