Sutter agrees to plea deal in Brayton Point coal blockade

FALL RIVER — Calling climate change “one of the gravest crises our planet has ever faced,” Bristol County District Attorney Samuel Sutter agreed to a plea deal Monday between his office and two activists arrested last year for blockading the coal-fired Brayton Point power plant in Somerset.

Activists Jay O’Hara and Ken Ward had been planning to use a “climate necessity” defense at trial Monday to argue that the imminent threat of climate change justified their seven-hour blockade of the plant in May 2013.

Instead, Sutter’s office agreed to drop conspiracy charges against the two environmental activists and to reduce other charges of disturbing the peace and motor vessel violations to civil infractions. In return, O’Hara and Ward agreed to pay $2,000 each in restitution to the town of Somerset, where the Brayton Point Coal Plant is located.

Sutter said Monday that the decision “certainly took into consideration the cost to the taxpayers. But it was made equally with our concern for their children, the children of Bristol County and beyond in mind.

“In my humble opinion, the political leadership on this issue has been greatly lacking,” he said. “This is a symbol of our commitment at the Bristol County District Attorney’s Office to take a leadership role on this issue.”

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