Ammon Bundy and six more found not guilty in Oregon standoff at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge
Multiple national news reports contributed to this story.
After six weeks in the courtroom and months in prison, a federal jury found Ammon Bundy, Ryan Bundy and five others involved in the Oregon federal lands protest not guilty of conspiracy and other charges, Oct. 27, in Portland.
The jury deliberated for less than six hours after one jury member was dismissed for holding a bias, and was immediately replaced.
The two Bundy brothers, along with five other protesters, were acquitted of charges of conspiring to impede federal workers from completing their jobs and and possession of guns in a federal facility at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, near Burns, Oregon last January and February.
One of Ammon Bundy’s attorneys, Marcus Mumford, was restrained, tased and charged with disorderly conduct and resisting a lawful command immediately following the verdict report, which required Ammon Bundy to stay in custody until a future trial date. In a video on Bundy Ranch Facebook page, Mumford said he asked for paperwork documenting the authorities’ right to keep Ammon in custody for a pending Nevada trial over the 2014 Bunkerville, Nevada, standoff between ranchers and the BLM over unpaid grazing fees. Some in the courtroom reported that Mumford was unruly and loud, inciting U.S. Marshals to tackle and tase him.
Ammon, Ryan and their father Cliven Bundy are all scheduled to appear in a Nevada court in 2017 for charges going back to the 2014 standoff in Nevada between the Bureau of Land Management and the Bundy family, along with supporters.
The Oregon protest began Jan. 2 and ended when the final four occupiers surrendered to the FBI Feb. 11.
The Bundy brothers and others arrived in Oregon just days before local ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond were taken into custody to serve a five-year sentence in federal prison.
The Hammonds had been found guilty of “Use of Fire to Damage and Destroy Property of the US,” and sentenced under the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act after burning around 140 acres of BLM land in two separate fires – one a backfire to protect their home and another a range management fire to improve the grass.
The Bundys and others protested the charge and prison sentence, saying the Hammonds did not intentionally harm any government property and in fact, by burning invasive juniper trees, improved the rangeland.
In the years leading up to the Hammond sentencing, the ranchers surrounding the Hammond family had all given up their grazing leases to an anti-grazing group and the Bureau of Land Management. After years of back-and-forth challenges between the BLM and the Hammonds over water rights, land management and more, the BLM charged the Hammonds with nine counts of wrongdoing, and the father and son were eventually charged with two counts of arson. The original sentences of less than one year in prison had been fulfilled but a new judge re-visited the case and determined that the minimum sentence of five years in prison needed to be enforced.
The protesters, some armed, led by Ammon Bundy, said they hoped to return federal lands to ranchers, citing regulations and actions unfriendly to livestock grazers. They took over the refuge headquarters on a Saturday when no employees were present. The protesters remained mostly on site at the refuge throughout the occupation, but traveled to nearby towns to host meetings relating to federal lands issues.
On their way to one such meeting in John Day, Oregon, on Jan. 26, fellow protester, Arizona rancher LaVoy Finicum, was shot and killed by Oregon state troopers.
Social media was immediately swarming with comments from onlookers calling for retribution for Finicum’s death, saying he, too, was innocent. Law enforcement officers say they were justified in killing him as they believed he was reaching for a firearm. Other social media commenters noted comparisons between the Dakota Access Pipeline protest near the Standing Rock Reservation in Western North Dakota and the Oregon protest.
“While I respect the jury’s decision, I am disappointed. The occupation of the Malheur Refuge by outsiders did not reflect the Oregon way of respectfully working together to resolve differences,” said Democratic Oregon governor, Kate Brown on Twitter.
Editor’s Note: We have compiled all the articles we have published, as well as a timeline of the events, surrounding the Bundy Standoff and other incidents relating to government control of public lands such as the Hammond Fire Trial and the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Click here to find more information.