Defendants found not guilty in Oregon refuge occupation trial

Wildlife refuge occupiers found not guilty

PORTLAND, Ore. - A jury found the defendants not guilty on all counts in the trial of six men and one woman who occupied a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon.

After the verdict was read, Marcus Mumford, who is Ammon Bundy's attorney, was tackled by U.S. Marshals as he was arguing with the judge. Mumford was yelling that his client was free to go. He is in U.S. Marshals custody.

One of the defendants told KGW's Mike Benner that the marshals shocked Mumford with a Taser.

Ammon Bundy will remain in custody because the U.S. government has a hold on him. The Bundys are still facing charges in Nevada stemming from a high-profile 2014 standoff with federal agents trying to round up their father Cliven Bundy's cattle.

Jurors announced on Thursday that they reached an agreement on all but one charge. The jury made the announcement after deliberating for more than a week.

Arizona conservative activist Jon Ritzheimer was involved in the occupation and accepted a plea deal in August. He faces up to three years in prison.

The trial centered on felony charges of conspiracy, with federal prosecutors arguing that all of the defendants kept federal employees from doing their jobs when the defendants and at least 19 others occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in January and early February.

Oregon Governor Kate Brown tweeted a statement, saying she was disappointed by the jury's decision.

Some defendants also faced felony charges of theft of government property and possession of firearms at a federal facility.

Defendants include brothers Ammon and Ryan Bundy, the leaders of the standoff, and David Fry, the last occupier to remain at the refuge. Fry made headlines for live-streaming a phone call where here hysterically yelled at an FBI negotiator, “You’re going to hell. Kill me,” before surrendering.

Other defendants include Neil Wampler, who was previously convicted and served prison time for murdering his father, Kenneth Medenbach, who has already been found guilty in another federal occupation case, Jeff Wayne Banta, one of the last four holdouts, and Shawna Cox, one of the first arrested occupiers to be released.

Eleven occupiers have taken plea deals and seven are scheduled to stand trial on Feb. 14, 2017. A 26th ccupier, Robert “LaVoy” Finnicum, was shot and killed by Oregon State Police during the occupation.

Those who took plea deals have either agreed to or will likely face between six months of home detention and 3 and a half  years in prison.

The occupation and subsequent trial drew national attention. On Jan. 2, a group of people protesting federal land use policy stormed the wildlife refuge in remote Eastern Oregon, which was empty at the time due to the holiday, took over the facility and demanded the release of two ranchers convicted of arson on federal land. It ended Feb. 11 when the last four holdouts at the refuge surrendered.

(© 2016 KGW)


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