- Associated Press - Saturday, January 3, 2015

VERNAL, Utah (AP) - Twenty-one people have been charged in a July protest at an eastern Utah oil sands operation.

Uintah County prosecutors on Friday charged six protesters with felony rioting and misdemeanor interference with an arresting officer in the protest of Utah’s first commercial fuel-producing tar sands mine.

Another protester was charged with felony failure to stop at the command of law enforcement, while 14 other protesters were charged with misdemeanor offenses mostly related to trespassing, The Salt Lake Tribune reported (http://bit.ly/1xlqGNq ).

Among other things, protesters are accused of blocking a road, entering a fenced-off area and chaining themselves to machinery near where Calgary-based U.S. Oil Sands was beginning work on a mine in the Book Cliffs area.

About 80 people associated with Utah Tar Sands Resistance took part in the July 21 protest. They sought to bring attention to what they call destructive strip mining that could spread through the Uinta Basin should U.S. Oil Sands succeed.

Uintah County Attorney Mark Thomas said all 21 protesters are expected to enter plea agreements.

At least some of the 21 are expected to enter plea agreements at a court hearing Thursday, said attorney Greg Skordas, who represents some defendants.

“Because there were 21 of them, we’ve had to look at each person individually and try to take into account their conduct and their history, and try to fashion a plea (for) each defendant,” he told The Tribune.

Protesters charged with felony rioting were Jesse Frurwirth, 34, Laura Gottesdiener, 27, Victor Puertas, 38, Daniel Gruppo, 27, Camilla Ibanez, 19, and Damien Luzzo, 25.

The charge carries a sentence of up to five years in prison.

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Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com

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Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com

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