Judge, Refusing to Release Acquitted Bundy's, Tasers & Arrests Their Attorney Instead
Ammon and Ryan Bundy were acquitted Thursday of federal conspiracy and weapons charges from takeover of a federally owned wildlife sanctuary in Oregon last winter
October 30, 2016
update, 10/28: The Bundy brothers remained in jail Friday following a dramatic acquittal a day earlier in a courtroom that erupted into chaos after an attorney yelled at a judge for their release, resulting in him being subdued with a Taser gun and arrested.
A jury delivered an extraordinary blow to the government Thursday in a long-running battle over the use of public lands when it acquitted all seven defendants involved in the armed occupation of a national wildlife refuge in rural southeastern Oregon.
After the verdicts were read, an attorney for group leader Ammon Bundy demanded his client be immediately released and repeatedly yelled at the judge. U.S. marshals tackled attorney Marcus Mumford to the ground, used a stun gun on him several times and arrested him.
U.S. District Judge Anna Brown said she could not release Bundy because he still faces charges in Nevada stemming from an armed standoff at his father Cliven Bundy's ranch two years ago.PORTLAND, Ore. - Armed antigovernment protesters led by Ammon and Ryan Bundy were acquitted Thursday of federal conspiracy and weapons charges stemming from the takeover of a federally owned wildlife sanctuary in Oregon last winter, reports the New York Times.
The surprise acquittals of all seven defendants in Federal District Court was a blow to government prosecutors, who had argued that the Bundys and five of their followers used force and threats of violence to occupy the reserve. But the jury appeared swayed by the defendants' contention that they were protesting government overreach and posed no threat to the public.
In a sign of the tension that ran through the trial, Ammon Bundy's lawyer, Marcus R. Mumford, frustrated that the Bundys were not being released, was restrained by four United States marshals after an outburst.
"This is beyond any happiness I've ever experienced," said Ryan Bundy's wife, Angela Bundy, 39, in a telephone interview from the family ranch in Bunkerville, Nev. "I knew that what my husband was doing was right, but I was nervous because the judge was controlling the narrative. But they saw the truth. I am just so grateful they saw it." The family planned to celebrate on the ranch Thursday night, she said.
"I am happy to be free," said Shawna Cox, the only woman among the defendants, expressing fury at the treatment of Mr. Bundy's lawyer after the verdicts.
Outside the courthouse, supporters of the protesters chanted: "Praise God. Praise God."
It was not immediately clear how the not-guilty verdicts would affect the government's strategy in another case stemming from the Oregon occupation, or a trial in Nevada that the Bundy brothers and their father, Cliven Bundy, face for an armed standoff there.
The Oregon occupation, at a remote and frigid reserve in the southeastern part of the state, was rooted in antigovernment fervor and captured the nation's attention. It had a Wild West quality, with armed men in cowboy hats taking on federal agents in a tussle over public lands and putting out a call for aid, only to see their insurrection fizzle.
In a monthlong trial here, the defendants never denied that they had occupied and held the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters for nearly six weeks, demanding that the federal government surrender the 188,000-acre property to local control. But their lawyers argued that prosecutors did not prove that the group had engaged in an illegal conspiracy that kept federal workers - employees of the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Land Management - from doing their jobs.
On January 2, 2016, armed militants seized the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Harney County, Oregon, United States, and continued to occupy it until law enforcement made a final arrest on February 11, 2016. Their leader was Ammon Bundy, who participated in the 2014 Bundy standoff at his father's Nevada ranch. Other members of the group were loosely affiliated with non-governmental militias and the sovereign citizen movement.
The organizers were seeking an opportunity to advance their view that the United States Forest Service (USFS), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and other agencies are constitutionally required to turn over most of the federal public land they manage to the individual states. In 2015, the militants decided they could do this by protesting the treatment of two area ranchers convicted of federal land arson, even though the men in question did not want their help. The occupation began when Bundy led an armed party to the refuge headquarters following a peaceful public rally in the nearby city of Burns.
On January 26, 2016, several leaders were arrested by the Oregon State Police (OSP) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) while en route to a public meeting in a neighboring county. One of them, Robert "LaVoy" Finicum, was shot and killed while resisting arrest and appearing to reach his hands towards his semi-automatic handgun. Afterwards, most of the other militants withdrew from the occupation, peacefully returning to their homes.
By January 28, only four militants remained in occupation of the site, and the last of them surrendered peacefully on February 11, 2016. More than two dozen of the militants have been charged with federal offenses including conspiracy to obstruct federal officers, firearms violations, theft, and depredation of federal property. As of August 15, twelve have pleaded guilty, while others are awaiting trial
On October 27, 2016, a jury acquitted seven of the defendants, including Ammon and Ryan Bundy, of all federal charges.