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Franklin County couple in court for letting tree-sitters on their property

ROANOKE, Va. – A husband and wife in Franklin County are facing a federal contempt charge for letting tree-sitters on their farm as part of a protest against the Mountain Valley Pipeline. 

Ian and Carolyn Reilly are in court Friday for a hearing. 

The names of the tree-sitters are unknown to the court. There are three covered platforms about 75 to 80 feet in the air. The tree-sitters got up there using a rope system. 

The tree-sitters are in the pipeline's projected path and are preventing tree-cutting. MVP has previously demanded that the tree-sitters leave. 

There's a motion for MVP to pay the families to use their land, but that is not being heard in Friday's court session. 

The defense's attorney says that the platforms were built in January and the landowners had no hand in their construction. 

Because the landowners don't know who the tree-sitters are, the defense is arguing that the Reillys can't be obstructing. Also, the defense argues the Rilleys don't have an obligation to remove the sitters from their property and they're not participating in the tree-sitting themselves.

After a recess at 1 p.m., multiple witnesses spoke to the additional costs the tree sitters are creating.

Estimates by one witness could be as high as $250,000 depending on how many crews have to skip the area.

During the rebuttal, lawyers for Mountain Valley Pipeline said, "MVP is not trying to silence anyone."

In response to that, there was audible laughter from those in the gallery, to which the judge asked everyone to be quiet. 

The judge will not rule Friday on the case.