Pipeline opponents in Roanoke County to appeal misdemeanor conviction

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SALEM, Va. (WDBJ7) Mary Beth Coffey and Jenny Chapman say they were not protesting on May 25th, weren't trying to get arrested and didn't violate the court order that was in place at the time.

But Monday morning they were convicted of a misdemeanor, interfering with property rights

"We are going to appeal this, because we were not interfering with property rights," Coffey told WDBJ7.

Coffey and Chapman were close to the right-of-way on May 25th, on Bent Mountain property where MVP crews were cutting trees.

"The case today was about whether or not people were interfering with the easement, or what they were arguing was the safety zone beyond the easement," said their attorney, Cerid Lugar.

Coffey and Chapman say they weren't trying to get in the way, but were there to watch crews as they worked near what opponents believe to be a native American site of significance.
"I think what we were doing was witnessing there at the burial ground," Chapman said in an interview after the hearing, "and also observing to see that the tree cutting was within the parameters that it should be in."

Landowner Kathy Chandler agreed.

"I don't understand that they had any intention to interfere. I didn't observe anything of interfering," Chandler said. "I had friends there with me to help me document damage to my property, which is what this is. Despite a court order it's damage."

A spokesperson for the Mountain Valley Pipeline was out of the office Monday afternoon, and unavailable for comment.

The judge offered to take the misdemeanor under advisement for 12 months, and dismiss the charge if Coffey and Chapman stayed out of trouble.

The defendants declined.

They say they are not guilty. A September date has been set for their appeals.