Anti-Line 3 group destroyed evidence in sexual harassment lawsuit, court says

Judge Gretchen Thilmony found that Honor the Earth "intentionally destroyed material evidence in an effort to deprive Plaintiff of information that is necessary and helpful to this litigation."

Protesters display a "Stop Line 3" banner during a 2019 demonstration at the Minnesota Capitol. (Shutterstock)

A Minnesota district court judge has ordered an anti-Line 3 activist group to pay legal expenses to the plaintiff in a sexual harassment lawsuit filed against them.

According to a court order from June, Judge Gretchen Thilmony found that environmentalist group Honor the Earth “failed to preserve data that it had a legal duty to preserve” and “intentionally destroyed material evidence in an effort to deprive Plaintiff of information that is necessary and helpful to this litigation.”

“Despite its role as an environmental advocate and timing of the Line-3 Pipeline, the Court is not convinced that [Winona] LaDuke, who is the Executive Director of HTE, was only receiving an average of one email per day. The disparity is too large to ignore, and the numbers here indicate HTE has engaged in foul play,” Thilmony said.

The lawsuit was filed in 2019 by former Honor the Earth employee Margaret Campbell, who claims the group’s youth organizer, Michael Dahl, sexually harassed her.

Campbell’s suit also accuses Dahl of abusing underage boys and claims Honor the Earth executive director and co-founder Winona LaDuke failed to adequately address her complaints.

The missing documentation, according to the court order, includes email exchanges between LaDuke and Campbell’s attorney, as well as LaDuke and Honor the Earth board members.

“Due to the numerous examples of conspicuously missing documents, a strong inference can be drawn that many more documents that cannot be identified are also missing. The missing evidence that Campbell is unable to identify with any degree of certainty would prevent her from making arguments critical to proving her claims,” Judge Thilmony wrote.

“[Honor the Earth] must also be prevented from raising any claims or defenses relying upon evidence that HTE destroyed. Therefore, imposition of both monetary sanctions and adverse inference instructions to the jury would be appropriate to remedy the extreme prejudice suffered by Campbell.”

According to the order, Honor the Earth will be required to pay “all attorney’s fees and costs of investigating, researching, preparing, and arguing motions touching upon and concerning document destruction, spoliation, and sanctions.”

Gender Justice, a liberal legal group representing Campbell, submitted an invoice to the court for $52,000 in attorney’s fees.

LaDuke has been no stranger to controversy. She once admitted in a private Facebook message from 2015 that Dahl “probably did have sex” with a 15-year-old boy, yet appeared to justify it on the grounds that Dahl’s sexual orientation is “two spirit,” according to court documents.

Despite the ongoing litigation, LaDuke maintains a prominent role in progressive circles. She met with Rep. Ilhan Omar and other members of Congress in September of last year and was invited to testify in the Democratic-controlled Minnesota House last January.

Alpha News reached out to Frank Bibeau, an attorney for Honor the Earth, but did not receive a response.


Evan Stambaugh

Evan Stambaugh is a freelance writer who had previously been a sports blogger. He has a BA in theology and an MA in philosophy.