Blaine Cooper, one of the first to plead guilty to federal conspiracy in the armed takeover of the Mahleur National Wildlife Refuge who later testified for the government against his co-defendants, is expected to be sentenced next week to time served for his role in the Oregon standoff.
Cooper was described as a recruiter, calling men to come to the Oregon refuge with guns and to Bunkerville, Nevada, in April 2014 during a standoff with federal agents outside the ranch of patriarch Cliven Bundy.
Prosecutors will recommend a sentence of time served, plus three years of supervised release and that Cooper pay $7,000 in restitution, according to court documents.
The government will ask that Cooper, 38, participate in a mental health program as a condition of his release, but Cooper’s lawyer objects to that requirement.
Cooper, who pled guilty in the Oregon case in June 2016 and became a government witness at a trial against refuge occupiers Jason Patrick, Darryl Thorn and two other co-defendants in 2017, has been on pretrial release since October 2017.
“During that time he participated in a mental health assessment, and it was determined that he was not in need of any further treatment,” his attorney Krista Shipsey wrote in a sentencing memo filed this week.
Cooper has acknowledged that he agreed to cooperate with the government in the hope of reducing an earlier, recommended six-year prison sentence. He also pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy in the Nevada case.
U.S. Marshals have been directed to help pay for Cooper’s transportation from Prescott, Arizona to Oregon for his formal sentencing next Tuesday before U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown.
In a Facebook video posted earlier this week, Cooper asked for “lots of prayer for mercy,” as well as lodging assistance, saying the trip would hurt him financially as he’ll have to miss four days of work.
Cooper spent nearly four hours on the stand last year, testifying that Ammon Bundy had called a clandestine meeting around the dining room of their host’s home in Burns on Dec. 29, 2015, and directed six other men there to leave their cellphones and laptops behind in a separate room.
It was then that Bundy discussed his idea of taking over the refuge, Cooper said.
Cooper’s testimony about the dining-room sit-down marked the first time anyone in court had referenced a late December meeting between Bundy and the other men about seizing the refuge before the Jan. 2, 2016, occupation.
Days before that Dec. 29 meeting, Cooper also appeared on an internet “call out” video with co-defendants Patrick and Jon Ritzheimer, urging “like-minded” patriots to come to Burns on Jan. 2, 2016, to protest the return to prison of Harney County ranchers Dwight Hammond and Steven Hammond, who were convicted of setting fire to public land.
During cross-examination, defense lawyers sought to impeach Cooper’s testimony by citing contradictory statements Cooper made on jail phone calls, including one to his wife on April 5, 2016, saying “I didn’t know they were going in there” in reference to the refuge.
They also played inflammatory videos that Cooper made, including one when he tore out pages of the Koran, wrapped them in bacon, threw them into an outdoor fire pit and then shot arrows at the Koran. They pointed out that Cooper, despite being a convicted felon, was seen with an AR-15 rifle at the Bundy ranch in 2014 in Nevada. And they elicited testimony that Cooper had spent time in institutions because of behavioral and mental health problems earlier in his life.
Cooper also was among the first convoy of vehicles to forcibly take over the refuge. He left on Jan. 27, 2016, a day after other leaders were arrested, and was taken into custody on Feb. 11, 2016. He’s already served more than 15 months in custody, according to prosecutors.
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