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Thompson handed conditional discharge for GM pollution demonstration

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CANTON — Larry V. Thompson won’t serve any jail time for his actions during a 2011 protest at a former General Motors Powertrain property in Massena.

But the St. Regis Mohawk tribal member isn’t ready to abandon his crusade to raise awareness of health issues among neighboring residents, what he calls a “genocide” that he believes is caused by inadequate efforts to contain underground pollutants such as polychlorinated biphenyls.

“People are suffering,” Mr. Thompson, 58, said during a 20-minute speech before sentencing Thursday morning in St. Lawrence County Court. “Your laws have no control over these chemicals.”

Defense attorney Christopher A. Amato told a reporter after sentencing that “we are still developing a strategy” on what form future anti-pollution efforts might take.

The town of Massena site, which borders the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation, was listed as one of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund sites in 1984. On Aug. 11, 2011, Mr. Thompson drove an excavator onto a 12-acre landfill at the former GM property and began churning up what he believed was contaminated earth as a protest against a decades-old decision to cap the site rather than clean up the toxins beneath.

Mr. Thompson pleaded guilty on Dec. 11 to one count of fourth-degree criminal mischief as part of a plea deal reached in chambers shortly before a trial was set to begin.

In keeping with that deal, St. Lawrence County Judge Jerome J. Richards sentenced Mr. Thompson to a one-year conditional discharge and imposed a five-year order of protection barring him from the site, which is owned by the Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response Trust. Mr. Thompson also must submit a DNA sample and pay $250 in fines and fees.

The trust had sought $70,000 in damages caused when Mr. Thompson, who lives on adjacent land, drove through a fence and onto the site. St. Lawrence County Assistant District Attorney James Monroe said in December that trust officials were willing to forego restitution in exchange for a deal “to keep him off the property.”

“I agree to the court’s conditions. I’ll live up to them,” Mr. Thompson said Thursday. “But when the truth comes, I feel confident it will supersede any agreement.”

Mr. Thompson did, however, object Thursday to a pre-sentencing report that identified him as a U.S. citizen, and told the judge he could produce documentation he said he received from the U.S. Congress proving that he cannot be forced to accept citizenship.

The judge replied that he understood Mr. Thompson’s “cultural objections” but that, under the 14th Amendment, being born in the United States renders him a citizen.

Mr. Thompson told the judge that he was “an original” with “an original title to this land.”

“Our ancestors’ bones are here,” Mr. Thompson said. “Your ancestors’ bones are across the salt water.”

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