By Maxine Bernstein | The Oregonian/OregonLive | April 06, 2017 at 6:04 PM
California resident Gary Hunt, speaking by phone from jail Thursday, promised he would show up to court in Portland to defend his right to publish details about FBI informants involved in the investigation of the armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
“I give my word, my bond, my honor that I will appear at a time designated by the court,” Hunt told U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown. “Believe it or not, I’ve been looking forward to discussing the issue in your presence.”
The judge responded that she needed more than “his word” before she approved his release from custody.
Hunt, 71, was arrested last Thursday on a warrant that Brown signed after he skipped a hearing to explain why he shouldn’t be held in civil contempt of a court order that demanded he remove his online publications revealing confidential FBI informants who assisted in the investigation of the 41-day refuge occupation.
He has spent the last week in the Sacramento County Jail.
Hunt has argued that he was never a defendant in the federal conspiracy case and that the federal judge in Oregon doesn’t have any jurisdiction over him nor does her order demanding he remove his online posts.
Brown advised Hunt on Thursday that he can make what’s called a “special appearance” in court and not waive his challenge to the court’s jurisdiction.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Pamala Holsinger objected to the release of Hunt without him signing an appearance bond or posting something to require his appearance.
“Every single court order on this issue he has ignored,” Holsinger said.
Hunt interjected that he would sign an agreement, but it can’t contain the word “defendant.”
“I’m not a defendant in anything. I can’t agree to be a defendant,” he said. ” If you strike the word ‘defendant,’ I’ll sign it.”
Brown said Hunt could have avoided jail if he had made his position clear in writing to the court or called the court.
The judge directed the prosecutor and Portland attorney Michael Levine, assigned to represent Hunt, to craft some type of written agreement for Hunt to sign, with “an enforceable promise he’ll appear” before her at 2 p.m. on May 9 to argue if the court has authority over Hunt.
By 4:30 p.m., Hunt had signed a $10,000 “appearance bond,” and the judge ordered his release. If Hunt doesn’t show up in May, he’ll forfeit that amount of money.
“I would like to sleep in my own bed for a change,” Hunt told the judge. “This has been a hardship for me.”
The presence of nine informants sent to the eastern Oregon refuge last year, as well as six others who worked on the case for the FBI, came out during the first trial of occupation leaders.
Hunt, according to prosecutors, apparently got hold of FBI reports on the confidential informants that prosecutors gave to defense attorneys as part of their sharing of evidence before trial. The court ordered the reports not be shared with others.
Hunt was a member of the advisory board for Operation Mutual Defense, a network of militias and supporters founded by Ryan Payne, one of the refuge occupation’s organizers.
In a motion to release Hunt, two Oregon assistant federal public defenders described him as a Vietnam veteran and retired professional surveyor with no prior criminal history and long-term ties to his California community. The Federal Public Defender’s Office, though, can’t represent Hunt going forward because the office already represents a defendant in the refuge takeover case.
Occupation leader Ammon Bundy and six others were acquitted of conspiracy and other charges after a five-week trial that ended Oct. 27. Eleven pleaded guilty to felony charges and another three pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor trespass charge. Four other defendants were convicted of felony and misdemeanor charges after a recent 10-day jury trial, followed by a bench trial before Brown.
— Maxine Bernstein
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