Seventeen protesters arrested at the construction site of a natural gas pipeline in southern Berkshire county appeared in court Thursday in Great Barrington. And prosecutors tossed them a curveball.
The protestors said they wanted to plead not guilty to trespassing and disorderly conduct, but never got the chance. Prosecutors were able to convert the charges to civil infractions.
This squashed any chance at a full trial, which the anti-pipeline group, the Sugar Shack Alliance, had hoped to use as a type of forum on the pipeline.
But the alliance's spokesperson, Vivienne Simon, said prosecutors may react differently to future protests.
"At some point, they may have to bring criminal charges," Simon said. "They may get pressure from [pipeline company] Kinder Morgan. They may get pressure from elsewhere within the state."
The New York-to-Connecticut pipeline, cutting through a Massachusetts state forest, has been the subject of a legal and regulatory battle.