FORT BENTON – The trial began on Tuesday for Leonard Higgins, who is accused of trespassing and turning off the valve at the Express Pipe Line in Coal Banks Landing in October of 2016.

Higgins is facing two charges, criminal trespassing and criminal mischief, both of which could carry a maximum penalty of ten years and fines of up to $50,000.

Defense attorney Herman Watson told jurors that they will hear from Higgins. He will be arguing that the damages done to the pipeline do not add up to $1,500 worth of damage.

Watson said, “Criminal trespass is entering property without permission. Mister Higgins has always freely admitted that that is what he’s done, when he entered the pipeline valve site. Criminal mischief is a felony, and it is the state’s job to prove within a reasonable doubt that the damage is greater than $1,500. It’s our position that they can’t do that, and so not guilty is the appropriate plea.”

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Jurors heard from three witnesses on Tuesday: two Sheriff’s deputies who responded to the call and a Spectra employee.

Photos of the cut chains and locks that were placed at the valve location were submitted as evidence.

The trial will resume on Wednesday.

MTN’s Elizabeth Transue