By Tony Hernandez | The Oregonian/OregonLive Updated March 10, 2017 at 10:16 PM
Here’s what people are saying after the mixed verdicts Friday in the second Oregon standoff trial.
The jury found two of four defendants — Jason Patrick and Darryl Thorn — guilty of conspiracy in the 2016 takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and acquitted two others — Duane Ehmer and Jake Ryan — on the conspiracy charge
But the jury found Ehmer and Ryan guilty of willfully damaging the refuge and found Thorn guilty of possessing a gun at a federal facility. Patrick and Ryan were acquitted on the gun charge.
Defendant Jason Patrick spoke outside after the decision:
Here’s a brief statement from defendant Duane Ehmer:
From Duane Ehmer’s defense lawyer Michele Kohler:
She believed U.S District Judge Anna J. Brown unfairly restricted the number of defense witnesses who could be called during trial, based on the judge’s experiences during the five-week trial last fall of Ammon and Ryan Bundy and five others.
Kohler said she could have presented more evidence to bolster Ehmer’s defense for the depredation of government property charge – that he dug the trench on the refuge on Jan. 27, 2016, because he was terrified of an FBI attack and he didn’t willfully know he was breaking the law.
“I feel I failed in presenting more witnesses who could have talked about his mindset, but at the same time when you have Judge Brown breathing down on you, ‘No, it’s cumulative!’ you cut your case down,” she said.
She expects appeals and believes the prosecution won’t deter supporters of the defendants but make them more determined in challenging federal control of public land.
“I think this fight is going to continue. I think the new Sagebrush Rebellion has ignited. I do not think this is going to go away.”
From Jake Ryan’s defense lawyer Jesse Merrithew:
“I think it is likely a compromise verdict. I think Jason Patrick hit it right on the head. If they had the option of convicting them of tampering with a government vehicle or trespass, they wouldn’t have been convicted of conspiracy.”
Merrithew said he was disappointed the jury convicted Ryan and Ehmer of depredation of government property, a felony that could bring up to six years in prison.
They built the trenches because they thought the FBI planned to raid the refuge, Merrithew said. “They were simply terrified, trying to do what they had to do to survive,” he said.
With Patrick and Thorn’s convictions on conspiracy charges in the wake of last fall’s acquittals of the occupation leaders, Merrithew said, “I don’t think that comports with anybody’s sense of justice.”
Juror 4 in the first Oregon standoff trial last fall that led to acquittals of leader Ammon Bundy and six others in the refuge occupation said Friday’s verdicts provided a “mixed result.”
(The court has protected the identities of the jurors in both trials. Juror 4 went on the record last year about the behind-the-scenes discussions that led to the acquittals.)
In an email to The Oregonian/OregonLive, Juror 4 said of the second trial:
It’s certainly a mixed result, which is not what I expected after two and a half days of deliberations. Our trials were so different that I am reticent to offer much by way of compliment or criticism. This jury’s decision must be respected.
You will not be surprised to hear me say that count one is the charge I find the most controversial, and so it is here I’m perplexed. Questions in my mind go like this: are there gradations of conspiracy in the federal law? Did some plan to impede more than others, causing them to cross some nebulous threshold of guilt? Two of the four defendants must have crossed that line in this jury’s mind, but what of the other two? Were those two (not guilty defendants) ignorant of the grand idea to prevent nine workers from doing their jobs — and, did they simply not know that such a plan was inherently illegal at the time of the alleged plan?
Many readers likely will not have considered that last part regarding the law of conspiracy, namely, that the guilty had to be aware of the illegality of their plan at the time of their planning. This is where it seems like such a high burden for any prosecution team to prove guilt, and where I feel this same team of excellent prosecutors failed in the first trial. I would have better understood today’s result if all four defendants had been found guilty in count one (chalking it up to better focus of Knight et al, more incriminating evidence, etc.) than this mixed result, frankly. Perhaps defendants Thorn and Patrick appeared more culpable (by evidence my jury was not privy to) than Ammon Bundy?
The firearms and depredation of government property convictions make sense, given what can be ascertained from the evidence record, but our jury wasn’t permitted to consider those charges (much less the misdemeanors). This is an important distinction for those tempted to draw meaningful distinctions between this trial and and the first. And if some folks feel encouraged by the two conspiracy convictions today, it should be noted that this amounts to a paltry 18 percent conviction rate on the same charge overall (two out of eleven) — hardly worth celebrating given the total time and cost. Perhaps there should be a statute on the books against impeding federal officers in the first place, to avoid the whole morass of conspiracy next time?
Statement from defendant Darryl Thorn:
We are principled men and women, still firm in our beliefs in the constitution, when it is in your hearts, We the People are the keepers of our rights, at the end of the day, We have not lost.
I and others have continued to preserve those rights.
Our case will appear before an appellate court now, We must continue to fight the good fight.
I personally continue to stand with the Hammonds and for the many political prisoners also for the people across this great country, it was the unconditional love for my neighbor an my moral compass that lead me to Burns, Oregon.
Always and forever,
We the People
Statement from Loren Cannon, FBI Special Agent in Charge in Oregon:
“Over a period of weeks leading up to and during the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation, these defendants made choices. Now, a jury of their peers has spoken, and the consequences of those choices are quite clear.
The U.S. Constitution gives all of us freedoms, but it also comes with the responsibility to respect the laws of this nation. We don’t live in a perfect world, but we do live in a great country. I encourage those who want to make it even better to act in peaceful and lawful ways to inspire lasting, positive change.”
Statement from Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity:
“These verdicts bring a measure of justice to the dangerous thugs who used violence, threats and guns to seize public lands that belong to the birthright of all Americans. The armed takeover of the Malheur wildlife refuge has disturbing echoes in Congress, where far right lawmakers who supported the militia are still trying to give away or sell off our public lands to the highest bidder. Stealing America’s birthright with political tricks is no more acceptable than stealing it with guns.”
Statement from John Horning, executive director of WildEarth Guardians:
“These verdicts bring some measure of justice to what was clearly an illegal takeover of the refuge, despite the results of the first trial. The ultimate goal for these radicals was to steal one of the cornerstones of the American experience–our public lands … Hopefully the verdicts in this case, along with eventual guilty verdicts for the Bundys in Nevada, will show there are serious consequences to using weapons to threaten and intimidate public officials based on a crackpot interpretation of the Constitution.”
Statement from Billy J. Williams, United States Attorney for the District of Oregon:
Good Afternoon. My name is Billy J. Williams, United States Attorney for the District of Oregon.
After approximately 21 hours over 3 days, a federal jury here in Portland returned its verdicts against Jason Patrick, Duane Ehmer, Darryl Thorn, and Jake Ryan all of whom were active participants in the 41-day armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge that took place near Burns, Oregon beginning in January of last year.
Jason Patrick was found guilty of conspiracy to impede officers of the United States.
Darryl Thorn was found guilty of conspiracy to impede officers of the United States and possession of firearms and dangerous weapons in federal facilities.
Duane Ehmer and Jake Ryan were both found guilty of depredation of government property.
Sentencing is scheduled for Wednesday, May 10, 2017 here in Portland.
Freedom of speech and expression are core values and rights that I and others have sworn to protect and uphold. In this case, the defendants were not on trial for their beliefs, but rather for their conduct.
Taking up arms and occupying federal lands and property that interferes with federal employees discharging their duties is and will continue to be illegal. We cannot have people taking over government offices and facilities at the end of a gun and expect no consequences.
The jury has spoken. Their verdicts speak to their view of the evidence. I respect the American judicial process and remain convinced it is the best system in the world.
For forty-one days early last year, these individuals prevented U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management employees from doing their jobs as stewards of land belonging to all Americans.
They purposefully interfered with the daily lives of residents of Burns, Hines, Harney County, and members of the Burns Paiute Tribe. The negative impacts of their actions continue to this day.
Our communities and state are stronger because of our joint effort to bring these individuals to justice. The rule of law matters.
Taking up arms because you do not like how things are done can never be accepted as a lawful way to protest. The good people in rural Oregon who are ranchers, loggers, farmers, and small business owners understand the difference between disagreeing with land management policies and working together to bring about change versus outsiders with a political agenda taking over property with guns and claims of being patriotic. A voice for change and one’s vote are more effective than threats and an AR-15.
I would like to begin by thanking the residents of Burns, Hines, and Harney County, Oregon, members of the Burns Paiute Tribe, and others who were victimized by the actions of these individuals. Your patience with and commitment to both trials was a motivation to everyone involved in the investigation and prosecution of this case.
I would like to thank Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward, Oregon State Police, the Oregon Sheriff’s Association, and the countless local and tribal law enforcement personnel from around the State of Oregon that worked tirelessly to bring about a peaceful resolution to the standoff.
I would like to thank the employees of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, United States Forest Service, and Bureau of Land Management for their courage and determination to continue serving our country in various capacities despite having their workplaces temporarily taken from them and despite having to dedicate countless staff hours in support of these trials.
I would like to thank the FBI for their outstanding investigative support through every phase of this process. Their professionalism and commitment were essential in bringing about a successful resolution to the trial.
And finally, I would like to thank our trial attorneys and staff at the United States Attorney’s Office for their hard work and commitment to bringing these defendants to justice. The process of prosecuting these individuals required an extraordinary level of effort and unflappable commitment on behalf staff at all levels. I am very proud and thankful for their tremendous effort.”
Statement from Jason Holm spokesman with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service:
We hope this outcome provides resolution to our employees and the
communities they serve. We are eager to move forward and continue
strengthening the collaborations and positive relationships between
our staff and the residents of Harney County cited throughout this
trial that make the refuge a model for community-based conservation.
Our gratitude goes to the local, state and federal law enforcement
officials who supported us throughout this ordeal, and note the
tireless efforts of the US Attorneys office.
— Maxine Bernstein of The Oregonian/OregonLive contributed to this story.