By Maxine Bernstein | The Oregonian/OregonLive | June 23, 2016
Wesley Kjar, described as one of Ammon Bundy’s personal bodyguards, pleaded guilty Thursday to a federal conspiracy charge stemming from the takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
“I agreed to occupy the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge as part of an armed political protest against federal power,” said Kjar, 32, dressed in a black suit, as he stood before U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown.
Witnesses told authorities that Kjar provided “armed personal security to Ammon Bundy,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Gabriel said.
Kjar, who said he lives in Salt Lake City, was at the refuge for less than a week, from Jan. 4 through Jan. 9. Photographs and videos showed Kjar openly carrying firearms on the refuge.
After leaving the refuge, he returned to Utah and approached members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, seeking their help to resolve the occupation peacefully, Gabriel said. He was arrested in Utah in early February.
Federal prosecutors will recommend Kjar, who has no prior criminal record and has been out of custody on pretrial release, spend six months in home detention, followed by up to three years of supervised release. As part of the plea deal, he’s agreed to forfeit any guns, ammunition or electronic devices that the government has seized from him.
Whether he must pay restitution remains in dispute and will be determined by the court.
He’s set to be sentenced at 11 a.m. on Oct. 28. Count 2 of his indictment, charging him with possession of firearms in a federal facility, will be dismissed at sentencing.
Kjar is the fifth person to plead to the federal charge of conspiring to impede workers at the refuge through “intimidation, threats or force.” He admitted to the judge that he did agree with others to go to the refuge for that purpose, and was armed while there.
The four others who have accepted plea deals are Corey Lequieu, Eric Lee Flores, Geoffrey Stanek and Jason Blomgren.
Twenty-six defendants were indicted on the federal conspiracy and weapons charges stemming from the refuge siege. Ammon Bundy, the leader, has said the occupation was held to protest the return to federal prison of two Harney County ranchers and federal control of public land.
Brian Cavalier, another of Bundy’s personal bodyguards, is scheduled to enter a guilty plea next week.
A trial has been set for Sept. 7.