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By Liz Miller
Observer Staff Writer 

First Criminal Sentenced for Armed Takeover of Malheur Wildlife Refuge

Corey Lequieu will serve 2.5 years in prison on Federal Conspiracy charges

 

August 22, 2016

U.S. Attorney's Office

Corey Lequieu on guard duty with an assault rifle at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge outside of Burns, according to federal prosecutors.

Corey Lequieu has become the first defendant sentenced for the armed takeover the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in January.

U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown sentenced Lequieu to 2 ½ years in prison followed by 3 years of supervised release in the federal conspiracy case. He must also pay restitution, in an amount to be determined later.

Lequieu, 46, was the first of the 26 defendants to plead guilty. He admitted to impeding federal employees through intimidation, threats, or force.

A conspiracy charge carries a maximum sentence of six years, but federal prosecutors recommended that Lequieu serve less time as part of a plea agreement. Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Gabriel said the government took under considered the fact that Lequieu was the first in the case to take responsibility for his illegal actions.

Gabriel dismissed Lequieu's remaining count of possessing a firearm in a federal facility. Lequieu, of Fallon, Nevada, had ties to the 2014 Cliven Bundy standoff near Bunkerville, Nevada. The government also agreed not to file felon in possession of a firearm charges against Lequieu in either state.

Lequieu's defense attorney, Ramon Pagan, told the court that his client was grateful that they reached an agreement without Lequieu agreeing to testify against other defendants in the case.

The government had asked that Lequieu's sentencing be pushed back until December, when other defendants in the case will be scheduled for sentencing, so that the victims could make just one trip to Portland to speak about the fear they felt and continue to feel because of the occupation. The workers, employees of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and U.S. Bureau of Land Management, couldn't make Lequieu's hearing on Tuesday.

Brown decided to move ahead because Lequieu wished to do so. The judge noted that Pagan will no longer be available to represent Lequieu in December because he was recently appointed as a Circuit Court Judge in Washington County.

Ten other defendants charged in the case have also pleaded guilty.

Gabriel told the court that Lequieu was among a group of protesters, including Jon Ritzheimer and Ryan Bundy, who were first to arrive at the refuge and enter the buildings with weapons on Jan. 2. He jad traveled to Harney County from Nevada in December in preparation for the occupation.

Lequieu was clearly seen holding an assault rifle in a video calling for militia members to support the occupation, Gabriel said. He also worked as security for the occupiers and was armed with an assault rifle in that capacity, the government has said.

Lequieu has claimed ties to the Nevada and 3 percent militia groups and prosecutors have said that he has made violent threats against the Bureau of Land Management and the FBI.

While the government has characterized Lequieu as one of the planners of the takeover, Pagan has said his client didn't play a leadership role.

Multnomah County Sheriff

Booking mugshot of Corey Lequieu

Lequieu left the refuge on January 26 after the FBI and state police arrested Ammon Bundy and other leaders during a stop outside the refuge. He was arrested in Nevada on February 11 and returned to Oregon.

In April, U.S. District Judge Robert E. Jones declined to release Lequieu from custody pending trial. "You're just too dangerous to let out at this time,'' Jones said at the time.

Pagan told the court that before the takeover, his client hadn't recently engaged in criminal behavior and his life was moving in a better direction.

Lequieu then asked if the judge could recommend that he serve his time at the federal prison in Sheridan, which is the closest to his Nevada home, making the trip easier for his family and supporters.

Brown agreed to make the recommendation, but ultimately, she said, the Federal Bureau of Prisons will decide where he goes.

 

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