U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown, in a written order issued Wednesday, gave Gary Hunt 24 hours to remove all posts he shared online that contained information from sensitive FBI reports on informants used during the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
The judge also ordered Hunt, a California man with ties to a network of militia groups who has posted articles about the informants and quoted excerpts of the FBI records on his Outpost of Freedom website, to stop doing so immediately.
If Hunt fails to comply with the judge's order once he is personally served with it by the FBI, prosecutors may pursue a contempt of court or other enforcement proceeding in the appropriate court jurisdiction, Brown wrote.
The judge said she did not rule on which federal court would be appropriate to bring such a sanction since she wasn't asked that question.
Should prosecutors figure out who provided the protected FBI reports to Hunt, the judge instructed them to seek appropriate enforcement steps "without delay,'' her ruling said.
While the judge acknowledged that the protective order she issued in March for the 246 pages of FBI reports on informants does not specifically say that it applies to people who are not party to the federal conspiracy case against refuge occupiers or their defense teams, she said it's well-established in case law that the court may prohibit a third party from violating a court order when he or she actively "aids or abets'' in the violation of the order.
Since the reports that prosecutors shared with the defendants and their lawyers did not identify the informants, yet Hunt has identified a handful by name based on his review of the documents, the judge concluded that Hunt has "aided and abetted the dissemination of materials covered by the Protective Order.''
Hunt was visited by an FBI agent on Jan. 5 and handed a "cease and desist order'' from a federal prosecutor to remove the posts on the informants and turn back the documents to the government. After that visit, Hunt said he did not believe the protective order applied to him because he's not a defendant nor a member of the defense team.
He said he was posting the material on his website because he believes it could help defendants who are set for trial next month. Ammon Bundy and six co-defendants were acquitted in late October of federal conspiracy, weapons and other charges. Seven other defendants are set for trial on Feb. 14. Eleven pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy and await sentencing.
On Wednesday, Hunt, who described himself as a journalist, said he received a call again from an FBI agent who wanted to meet him at a local restaurant to serve him with the judge's order. Hunt said he wouldn't even know how to remove the posts that he already placed online, if he decided to do so. He said he'll be consulting with lawyers.
"They insist I have the right to be heard, and they don't give me a right to be heard,'' he said.
And, he wrote in his latest online article, "For the record, I have never spoken with any of the defense attorneys or investigators in this case. The closest I have come to that is speaking with some of the defendants. However, I have heard that the defense attorneys do like my work, and some even look forward to my next article.''
The judge noted that she ruled previously that the government wasn't obligated to share the identities of the informants with the defendants. "Thus, the information in Hunt's postings should not be publicly available,'' Brown wrote.
Brown also issued additional language in the protective order to make sure there's no further questions about whether people who are not parties to the refuge case are covered by it.
It now says: "Any individual or entity that obtains materials protected by the Court's Protective Order is prohibited from disseminating those materials or any information derived therefrom to any other individual or entity by any means,'' Brown wrote.
-- Maxine Bernstein