UPDATE: Yellow Finch tree sitters found guilty of obstruction, property rights charges Wednesday

New River Valley News

UPDATE 5:15 p.m.: WFXR News has received a comment from a spokesperson from the Mountain Valley Pipeline regarding those who take extreme and unlawful action against work being done along the pipeline.

We condemn the illegal and dangerous tactics of those who put themselves and others at risk through these kinds of criminal acts. Mountain Valley has worked diligently for more than six years to comply with every federal, state and local law and regulation related to the development, construction and operation of this important infrastructure project. 

While we respect the opinions of those who oppose this pipeline and natural gas infrastructure, we believe there is common ground for all Virginians – and, indeed, all Americans – to reject the kind of attention-seeking, criminal behavior promoted by certain project opponents such as those engaged in these types of activities. 

Mountain Valley remains focused on working with communities, protecting natural resources and safely providing the affordable, cleaner energy that the public – in Virginia and across the eastern United States – demands.

Natalie Cox, spokesperson for Mountain Valley Pipeline

UPDATE 2:22 p.m.: Wednesday’s hearing started with both tree sitters pleading not guilty to all charges for obstruction of justice and misuse of proper rights of another.

The prosecution then laid out the time of the events leading up to the arrest of the tree sitters in late March, including the operation to remove them.

The prosecution pointed out the use of what’s known as a “sleeping dragon device” to lock them to the tree, which had to be cut off using an angle grinder. According to prosecution, this event put others in harm.

Both 23-year-old Claire Marian Fiocco of Vermont and 24-year-old Alexander Samuel Parker Lowe of Massachusetts were found guilty with obstruction of justice and misuse of another’s property rights.

The tree sitters were also given 12 months jail time suspended for three years on the obstruction charge with three years of good behavior.

Both tree sitters plan on leaving Montgomery County after serving their time.

Fiocco and Lowe were both sentenced to 365 days for the property rights charge, but Fiocco has 207 days of time served and Lowe has 111 days of time served.

The Mountain Valley Pipeline civil case against the tree sitters in Circuit Court will determine if the tree sitters will pay restitution to the pipeline.


CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. (WFXR) — Two Mountain Valley Pipeline protesters who spent months sitting in trees and blocking workers from advancing on the Montgomery County pipeline project will appear in court on Wednesday.

Both 23-year-old Claire Marian Fiocco of Vermont and 24-year-old Alexander Samuel Parker Lowe of Massachusetts are slated to appear in Montgomery County General District Court in Christiansburg.

They were taken down from the trees over the course of two days in late March, more than 900 days after the sit-ins began in the Yellow Finch area.

Even though a judge ordered the tree-sitters to come down last November or be fined $500 for each day they stayed in the tree, Montgomery County authorities had to use a crane to get the tree-sitters down.

The two individuals face charges related to trespassing and have been jailed since their arrest because they have been ruled as flight risks.

The hearing for Fiocco and Lowe is expected to start at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, May 5.

A rally is planned outside the courthouse Wednesday morning for protesters supporting the tree-sitters in court.

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