from the District Court of Morton County, South Central
Judicial District, the Honorable Thomas J. Schneider, Judge.
R. Lingle, Assistant State's Attorney, Mandan, ND, for
plaintiff and appellee.
Benjamin M. Stoll (argued), Washington, DC, Russell J. Myhre
(appeared), Valley City, ND, and Thomas A. Dickson (on
brief), Bismarck, ND, for defendant and appellant.
1] Julian Bearrunner appeals from a criminal judgment entered
following convictions of class A misdemeanor criminal
trespass and class A misdemeanor engaging in a riot. We
affirm Bearrunner's conviction of criminal trespass and
reverse the conviction of engaging in a riot.
2] On February 1, 2017, a large group of individuals,
including Bearrunner, gathered in a pasture near the Dakota
Access Pipeline to participate in protest activities. The
pasture was owned by Energy Transfer Partners. The pasture
was separated from the adjacent highway by a barbed wire
3] Law enforcement arriving on the scene observed an open
gate and that the road leading from the highway into the
pasture through the open gate had been plowed free of snow.
Law enforcement agents entered the pasture, notified the
protesters they were on private property, and informed the
protesters they were required to leave. In response, the
protesters locked arms in a circle, refused to leave the
pasture, and had to be forcefully separated from each other
in order to be arrested. Bearrunner was arrested along with
the other protesters and charged with class A misdemeanor
criminal trespass and with class A misdemeanor engaging in a
riot. Following a bench trial, Bearrunner was found guilty of
4] On appeal, Bearrunner argues the district court
misinterpreted the criminal trespass statute by finding that
the pasture was "so enclosed as manifestly to exclude
intruders" as required to convict him of the trespassing
charge. Bearrunner also argues the district court erred in
finding that his conduct was "tumultuous and
violent" as required to convict him of the engaging in a
5] Under N.D.C.C. § 12.1-22-03(2)(b), "[a]n
individual is guilty of a class A misdemeanor if, knowing
that that individual is not licensed or privileged to do so,
the individual... [e]nters or remains in any place so
enclosed as manifestly to exclude intruders."
"Statutory interpretation is a question of law, fully
reviewable on appeal." Agri Indus., Inc. v.
Franson, 2018 ND 156, ¶ 6, 915 N.W.2d 146. The
primary purpose of statutory interpretation is to determine
legislative intent. Estate of Elken, 2007 ND 107,
¶ 7, 735 N.W.2d 842. Words in a statute are given their
plain, ordinary, and commonly understood meaning, unless
defined by statute or unless a contrary intention plainly
appears. N.D.C.C. § 1-02-02.
6] Bearrunner argues the district court misinterpreted the
phrase "so enclosed as manifestly to exclude
intruders" and asserts that, as a matter of law, the
fence in question cannot be found to be so enclosed that it
manifestly excludes intruders. Bearrunner also claims, as a
matter of law, a fence with an open gate may not be
considered so enclosed as manifestly to exclude intruders.
The word "manifestly" is not defined by N.D.C.C.
§ 12.1-22-03. As such, this Court looks to the plain,
ordinary, and commonly understood meaning of the word to
determine its meaning. N.D.C.C. § 1-02-02. The word
"manifest" is defined as "readily perceived by
the senses" or "easily understood or recognized by
the mind: obvious." Merriam-Webster's Collegiate
Dictionary 755 (11th ed. 2005). A plain reading of the
statute indicates the fence must be enclosed in a manner that
obviously excludes intruders before an individual is guilty
of trespass. Fences differ in size, materials of
construction, and purpose. One fence may clearly communicate
that trespassers are not allowed while another fence may not.
Accordingly, whether a fence is so enclosed that it obviously
excludes intruders is a finding of fact, not a matter or law.
7] When reviewing a district court's findings of fact
made during a bench trial, this Court has stated, "in
reviewing a judgment of conviction in a criminal appeal to
determine whether or not the evidence is sufficient to
establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, our duty is to
determine whether or not there is substantial evidence to
warrant a conviction." State v. Rufus, 2015 ND
212, ¶ 9, 868 N.W.2d 534 (quoting State v.
Hartleib, 335 N.W.2d 795, 797 (N.D. 1983)). "[T]his
Court is not limited to the reasons a trial court gives for a
finding of guilt. Instead, we consider the entire record to
decide whether substantial evidence exists to support the
conviction." State v. Steiger, 2002 ND 79,
¶ 8, 644 N.W.2d 187. Substantial evidence to support a
conviction exists when an inference can be drawn in favor of
conviction when looking at the evidence in the light most
favorable to the verdict. State v. Barth, 2005 ND
134, ¶ 15, 702 N.W.2d 1.
8] Here, the district court had access to photos of the
fence, gate, and surrounding area. The fence was constructed
of barbed wire and separated the pasture from the highway.
Bearrunner attempts to frame the gate issue as if there is no
factual dispute regarding the gate being open when protesters
arrived in the area. However, the State elicited testimony
during trial suggesting the protesters potentially opened the
gate. There was also testimony insinuating that protesters
had previously torn down signs prohibiting trespassing from
the fence. Even if one assumes the ...