HOUSTON – A total of 22 people from 13 states plus the District of Columbia will soon have to appear before a federal judge to answer charges following their alleged protest at the Fred Hartman Bridge in Houston, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick.
The criminal information, filed today, charges each with one count of aiding and abetting obstruction of navigable waters. They are currently in state custody on related charges but are expected to make their initial appearances before U.S. Magistrate Judge Dena Palermo at 12:00 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14.
“I commend the Harris County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) for their professionalism,” said Patrick. “This was a unique situation that required hours of preparation and execution to bring to a close. Rather than peacefully protesting, these defendants are charged with a crime that put lives at risk.”
The charges allege each aided and abetted each other and others known and unknown to unlawfully obstruct the navigable capacity of the waters of the United States. Specifically, the information alleges they obstructed the waterway by rappelling off and suspending themselves from the Fred Hartman Bridge over the San Jacinto River. Their actions caused a disruption and affected vessel traffic within the Houston Ship Channel - to and from the Port of Houston, according to the allegations.
Those charged in federal court include California residents Zeph Fishlyn, 52, Tamura R. Seiji, 29, and Richard A. Sisney, 32, all of Oakland, and Cole Asher Taylor-Martin, 35, of Fullerton; Missouri residents Jayden Allen, 20, of Warrensburg, and Dakota P. Schee, 25, of Kansas City; Jonathan Butler, 29, and Tracye Redd, 28, both of Washington, DC; Washington State residents Ryan Harris, 41, of Olympia, and Piper Werle, 29, of Port Orchard; New York women Brianna Gibson, 28, of Brooklyn, and Kim Irene, 26, of Jerico; Colorado residents Julie A. McElvain, 36, of Steamboat Springs, and Cheloee Price, 23, of Denver; as well as Christan Bufforu, 32, of Ellerwood, Georgia; Sydney Clifford, 21, of Portland, Oregon; Heather Doyle, 35, of Albequrque, New Mexico; Michael Herbert, 36, Hyattsville, Maryland; Tyler N. McFarland, 27, of Dover, New Hampshire; Sarah Newman, 42, of Lexington, Kentucky; Heidi Nybroten, 26, of Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Shevone Torres, 39, of Pennsauken, New Jersey.
If convicted of the misdemeanor charges, each faces up to a year in federal prison and a possible $2,500 fine.
HCSO led the investigation and arrests with the participation and assistance of Harris County Precinct 8 Constables’ Office, U.S. Coast Guard, Houston Police Department, FBI, Texas Department of Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration and fire departments in Houston and Baytown. Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark McIntyre is prosecuting the case.
An information is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence.
A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.