Public lands occupier Ken Medenbach, who called the Bundys his heroes on the witness stand last fall, is urging a judge to allow him to attend their federal criminal trial in Nevada next month.
Medenbach’s probation officer already denied the request. On Tuesday, Medenbach’s defense lawyer filed a motion asking U.S. District Judge Michael J. McShane to overrule the probation officer and allow Medenbach to support the Bundys and attend their Nevada trial.
Medenbach is on probation following a 2016 conviction for illegal camping in Josephine County, a federal misdemeanor. He was acquitted last year of all federal charges stemming from his participation in the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon.
Attorney Matthew Schindler argues there’s no justification to bar Medenbach from the fundamental right of attending a public trial in a highly-secure federal court in Nevada, and Medenbach poses no threat to public safety.
“Because of Mr. Medenbach’s personal and spiritual relationship with the Bundy family,” Schindler wrote, “he believes it is a moral imperative to be there providing support.”
Medenbach, Schindler noted, is not some random person who wants to attend a public trial, but someone who had spent months in jail with Cliven Bundy’s sons, Ammon Bundy and Ryan Bundy, in early 2016, describing them as Medenbach’s “friends and brothers.”
Medenbach was on trial last fall in federal court in Portland with Ammon Bundy and Ryan Bundy. Medenbach was acquitted of federal conspiracy and theft of government property charges stemming from the 41-day occupation of the federal wildlife refuge in Harney County. The Bundy brothers also were acquitted of federal conspiracy and weapons charges in the armed takeover of the federal bird sanctuary.
Jury selection is scheduled to start Oct. 10 in the federal trial against Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, accused of conspiring to thwart the federal government’s roundup of roughly 1,000 cows from public land near Bunkerville, Nevada, in April 2014. Cliven Bundy’s two sons, Ryan Bundy and Ammon Bundy, as well as Ryan Payne and Pete Santilli, are also set to go to trial next month in Nevada.
The five are accused of leading a conspiracy to enlist self-styled militia members to prevent federal agents from enforcing court orders to remove Bundy cattle from what is now Gold Butte National Monument. They each face 15 charges including conspiracy, assault and threats against federal officers, firearms counts, obstruction and extortion.
Two other co-defendants in the Bunkerville case who were released to home detention after their recent retrial ended with no verdicts on assault on a federal officer and related firearm charges but acquittals on other charges, will also be on trial.
“The Nevada federal criminal trial and the events at Bunkerville are deeply personal to Mr. Medenbach,” Schindler wrote. “Because hundreds of people who had no connection to him supported him during his crucible in Portland, he felt a powerful responsibility to attend the trials in Nevada.”
To deny his client the right to attend a federal trial would deny Medenbach his First Amendment rights, Schindler said.
Medenbach is appealing his April 2016 conviction and sentence for occupying federal public land in Josephine County as part of a mining protest. He set up an illegal cabin on U.S. Bureau of Land Management property near Galice and was sentenced to six months in jail, time served, plus five years of probation. As a condition of probation, he must seek permission before traveling out of state.
Earlier this year, he had asked a probation officer for permission to attend the Nevada trial of other Bundy co-defendants but was denied. Medenbach went anyway and was arrested on April 12 outside the federal courthouse in Las Vegas. Medenbach spent a week in custody in Nevada before McShane ordered his release on May 4, over prosecutors’ objections. He was placed on electronic monitoring once he returned to Oregon. In May, the judge also ordered Medenbach to remain on home detention and electronic monitoring for another two months at his home in Crescent.