FBI agent Astarita Trial Update Summary : 8-1-2018

#theOregon -> State police officer who fatally shot LaVoy Finicum outed by slip-up in court
For 2 1/2 years, Oregon State Police successfully concealed the names of the two SWAT officers who fatally shot Robert “LaVoy” Finicum as authorities arrested leaders of the armed takeover of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
But that ended this week when one of the names slipped out in court….

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Judge throws out 2 of 5 charges against indicted FBI agent one week before trial

A federal judge Monday threw out two of the five charges against an FBI agent accused of covering up that he fired two rifle shots at the truck of Oregon refuge occupation spokesman Robert “LaVoy” Finicum at a roadblock in January 2016.

U.S. District Judge Robert E. Jones struck one count of making a false statement and one count of obstruction of justice against W. Joseph Astarita.

The agent still faces three charges a week before his trial is scheduled to start: two other counts of making a false statement and one other count of obstruction of justice.

The disputed gunshots came as Finicum emerged from his pickup as police moved in to arrest the leaders of the armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Oregon.

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Court papers: One state trooper thought other trooper fired disputed shot at Finicum’s truck

An Oregon state police trooper at the scene of the Jan. 26, 2016 shooting of refuge occupation spokesman Robert “LaVoy” Finicum told investigators that he believed another state police officer fired the shot that struck the roof of Finicum’ struck, and not an FBI agent, according to court records filed Thursday.

Yet prosecutors are asking a judge to prevent the trooper from sharing his opinion at the trial of indicted FBI Agent W. Joseph Astarita, arguing that it’s not supported by facts and based largely on speculation.

Astarita is accused of denying that he fired two shots as Finicum emerged from his pickup truck at the police roadblock on the day the FBI and state police moved in to arrest leaders of the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. One shot hit the roof of Finicum’s truck and a second missed entirely, investigators said.

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Lawyers for indicted FBI agent suggest a state trooper may have fired shots in question

Lawyers for an indicted FBI agent suggest in court papers that one of the state troopers who shot and killed Oregon refuge occupation spokesman Robert “LaVoy” Finicum may have fired  the two earlier shots at Finicum as he emerged from his truck at a police roadblock.

The trooper, a member of the state police SWAT team identified in court papers only as “Officer 1,” was involved in at least two unrelated fatal shootings of civilians before the Finicum encounter, according to lawyers for FBI agent W. Joseph Astarita.

The government has refused to provide documents to the defense about those past shootings despite repeated requests, the agent’s lawyers said. Astarita’s lawyers are now asking a judge to compel the prosecution team to release the material.

“Such evidence could potentially reveal a pattern of behavior that might shed light on what Officer 1 did on January 26, 2016, and why he may not have been truthful about that conduct in the days and weeks that followed,” defense lawyer Tyler Francis wrote in a motion filed this week in U.S. District Court in Portland.

The motion reveals a theory of Astarita’s defense lawyers intended to cast doubt on the prosecution’s contention that the FBI agent fired at Finicum and then lied about it. One of the bullets hit the roof of Finicum’s truck and the other went astray.

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Oregon refuge occupier Blaine Cooper sentenced, last of 18 convicted in armed takeover

But the judge didn’t budge. A package of material about Cooper that his lawyer submitted to the court under seal “warrants concern,” Brown said.

The judge noted that she had received an email that morning with audio attached that purportedly contained “death threats” Cooper made while in custody in Nevada. Brown said she didn’t listen to the audio, was advised not to open it and considered it hearsay.

The judge said she was aware that during the case there was a “lot of bluster coming out of Mr. Cooper, making outlandish statements.”

Shipsey said she didn’t listen to the audio either, but didn’t receive any complaints during Cooper’s custody in Nevada and listened to his recorded jail calls.

After the sentencing, former Bundy supporter Melissa Laughter, who has been an outspoken critic of the defendants, said she sent the email to the judge, suggesting Cooper receive more time behind bars. She provided a copy of the audio and email to The Oregonian/OregonLive.

Laughter said she got the audio from a 2016 Facebook post from a Bundy supporter.

The recorded jail call starts out with Cooper issuing a disclaimer that nothing he says should be considered a threat but that he’s simply “venting animosity and discontent” after learning that Mark McConnell was a government informant. McConnell was driving the Jeep with Ammon Bundy inside when Bundy was arrested.

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Prosecutors to recommend Oregon refuge occupier Blaine Cooper be sentenced to time served

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.

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Ruling expected in 2 weeks on forensic experts in case of indicted FBI agent

Defense lawyers argued Friday that the government’s reconstruction of an FBI agent’s alleged shots at Oregon occupation spokesman Robert “LaVoy” Finicum isn’t based on sound forensic methods.

“They come in and present this evidence as if it’s precise. It’s just not so,” said Robert Cary, a well-known Washington, D.C.-based defense lawyer for indicted agent W. Joseph Astarita. “It’s presented as science and it’s way dangerous.”

Prosecutors countered that they relied on multiple experts who used independent state-of-the-art forensic methods and all placed Astarita as the only one who could have fired the shot that struck the roof of Finicum’s truck on Jan. 26, 2016.

 The closing arguments came after four days of testimony in a pretrial hearing to determine which experts’ work can be presented at Astarita’s July 24 trial. U.S. District Judge Robert E. Jones said he’d issue a written ruling in two weeks.

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Prosecutors to seek nearly 3 1/2-year sentence for refuge occupier Ryan Payne

Federal prosecutors next week will seek a nearly 31/2-year sentence for Oregon refuge occupier Ryan Payne, the longest prison term yet for a defendant convicted in the armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

They described Payne as a central figure who helped orchestrate the armed occupation of the federal wildlife sanctuary, described by Assistant U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Barrow as “one of the most extensive criminal activities in Oregon history.”

Payne repeatedly tried to persuade Harney County ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond not to surrender in January 2016 to complete five-year prison sentences for setting fire to public land. He also pressured Sheriff Dave Ward to intervene to prevent the Hammonds’ return to prison, prosecutors say.

The government submitted to the court a 91-page exhibit of recordings from weekly board meetings of the militia network Payne co-founded, Operation Mutual Defense, held in October, November and December 2015, the months preceding the refuge seizure. The board spoke of potential missions, including targeting radical Islam, intervening in the resettling of refugees in Montana and elsewhere, and attempting to free a federal prisoner by staging a “dynamic entry” into a prison by shielding militiamen within protesters.

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Wrongful Death Civil Suit Filed on the The Second Anniversary of Lavoy Finicum’s Murder in Oregon

Today,  Attorney Morgan Philpot, representing Jeanette Finicum, widow of Lavoy Finicum Shot and Killed at blind curve roadblock by Oregon State Police and FBI agents on January 26th, 2016, filed the attached Civil Demand for a Jury Trial in Oregon Federal District Court.

Lavoy was driving his truck with passengers Ryan Bundy, Shawna Cox, Victoria Sharp and Ryan Payne, to a meeting with Sherrif Glenn Palmer in John Day.  The murder and arrests marked the beginning of the end to the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Harney County Oregon.

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Ryan Bundy’s new bargaining chip: his shoulder shrapnel

A half-inch piece of metal lodged in the shoulder of Oregon refuge occupier Ryan Bundy could become central to the federal government’s prosecution of an FBI agent accused of lying about firing two shots as police tried to arrest the 2016 takeover’s leaders.

When Bundy was arrested along U.S. 395, emergency medics found him bleeding and wrapped his wound in a dressing.

He was taken to Harney District Hospital, where an X-ray revealed a metal fragment next to his right shoulder bone, presumably from a gunshot.

“There’s a bullet in there,” Ryan Bundy told The Oregonian/OregonLive. “I can see what it is. It’s shaped like a bullet.”

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Oregon refuge occupier Jon Ritzheimer: ‘I am extremely sorry for this entire mess’

Jon Ritzheimer, a military veteran who led and recruited others to the armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, was sentenced to a year and a day in federal prison and must spend another 12 months in a residential re-entry program, a federal judge ordered Thursday.

Ritzheimer, dressed in a blue suit and tie with a band of military medals from his two tours of Marine Corps Reserve duty in Iraq pinned to his jacket, apologized to the judge and those impacted by the 41-day occupation of the federal bird sanctuary in Harney County.

“I did read through the victim reports, and I do believe people were genuinely afraid,” he said. “It absolutely was not my intent for anyone to feel that way…I am extremely sorry for this entire mess.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Gabriel urged U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown to sentence Ritzheimer to two years in prison, citing his leadership and “aggravating” role in the occupation.

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Judge was rude, security over the top in Oregon occupation trial, defense lawyers say

Several defense attorneys from the first Oregon refuge occupation trial have written memos supporting Ammon Bundy’s lawyer in his fight with the federal court over his behavior during and at the end of the trial when he was tackled by federal marshals and stunned with a Taser.

The attorneys praised Marcus Mumford for his demeanor, said he didn’t have enough time to prepare for the trial but was a zealous advocate for his client. Some wrote that U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown was especially tough on Mumford, and there was longstanding animosity between Mumford and the marshals before the physical confrontation.

Mumford faced criminal charges after deputy marshals tackled him in the courtroom and took him into custody following the announcement of not guilty verdicts on Oct. 27, 2016, but prosecutors later dropped them. Mumford had shouted at the judge, argued for Ammon Bundy’s release and demanded to see a detention order from Nevada.

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Ken Medenbach gets green light to attend 7 days of Bundy trial in Nevada

Ken Medenbach will get his wish to attend part of the Bundy trial in Nevada.

A federal judge this week granted his request, with a list of conditions recommended by federal prosecutors.

The judge said Medenbach’s trip can last seven days to attend the start of the Nevada trial against Cliven Bundy, his two sons Ryan Bundy and Ammon Bundy, Ryan Payne and two other co-defendants. Pete Santilli reached a plea agreement with prosecutors and was released from custody last week.

U.S. District Judge Michael J. McShane set other conditions for Medenbach: He can’t wear or display any clothing or buttons with messages while in the federal courtroom, noting that he was ordered to remove one that read “jury nullification” and “not guilty” during the Oregon refuge occupation trial.

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Declining populations of threatened bull trout along two rivers in Oregon’s Malheur National Forest were not caused by grazing authorizations, a federal judge has ruled.

Environmentalists have failed to prove that grazing along two rivers in Oregon’s Malheur National Forest unlawfully harmed the threatened bull trout, according to a federal judge.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Papak has found that the U.S. Forest Service’s grazing authorizations along the Malheur and North Fork Malheur rivers haven’t violated environmental laws.

Papak has recommended dismissing a lawsuit filed against the agency by the Oregon Natural Desert Association and the Center for Biological Diversity.

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Ken Medenbach seeks judge’s permission to attend Bundy trial in Nevada

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.

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Portland Man who threw flare into cop car during May 1 protests gets 5 years?

A 23-year-old man who threw burning flares into a Portland police cruiser and the downtown Target store during May 1 protests that overran downtown Portland admitted guilt Monday and will be sentenced to five years in prison.

A local TV station aired live footage of Damion Zachary Feller hurling a flare through a shattered picture window at Target, prompting employees to run with fire extinguishers to put out a burning section of carpet. TV and cellphone cameras also caught Feller throwing a flare through the shattered window of a battered police SUV parked across the street from Target, at Southwest 10th Avenue and Morrison.

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Other FBI agents at scene of LaVoy Finicum shooting testified before grand jury

Other members of the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team involved in the stop of refuge occupation spokesman Robert “LaVoy” Finicum testified before a federal grand jury that returned an indictment against their colleague, Agent W. Joseph Astarita. 

Prosecutors have asked the court for permission to share transcripts of the agents’ testimony with a nationally recognized ballistics and trajectory expert who they may call as a witness at trial.

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California man who outed FBI informants in refuge takeover case found in civil contempt of court

A federal judge has found California resident Gary Hunt, who published the names of confidential informants who helped the FBI during the armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, in contempt of a court’s protective order.

U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown has given Hunt until noon on Wednesday to remove the articles on his blog that reference the informants and destroy all government documents he received on the informants.

If he doesn’t, he’ll face more “coercive sanctions,” the judge wrote in her 23-page ruling.

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Oregon’s U.S. senators urge Trump to keep U.S. Attorney Billy Williams

Oregon’s U.S. senators have urged President Trump to retain Billy J. Williams as the state’s top federal prosecutor.

Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden say Williams is a prosecutor with integrity who enjoys bipartisan support and should remain Oregon’s U.S. attorney.

The two signed an Aug. 16 letter to White House counsel Donald F. MGahn II  and included a letter of support from the Oregon State Sheriff’s Association.

So far, no word has come from the Trump administration regarding the post.

Williams was named acting U.S. attorney in April 2015 after Amanda Marshall resigned amid a sexual harassment investigation. Early last year, he was appointed to the post by Chief U.S. District Judge Michael W. Mosman.

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Schaeffer Cox Not Guilty of Solicitation!

In a stunning ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, Schaeffer Cox’s conviction on “solicitation to murder a federal official” has been overturned. Citing someone close to the case, the 9th Circuit found, “that it is clear that no rational trier of fact could find Defendant guilty of solicitation to murder a federal official.”

Furthermore, the 9th vacated Cox’s sentences on all counts of his conviction, and remanded it back to the District Court where new sentencing must be ordered.

If the District Court was interested in justice, it would sentence Schaeffer Cox to time served. Please let your voices be heard at the United States District Court of Alaska in Anchorage by calling 1-866-243-3814 or by writing Chief Judge Burgess at BurgessProposedOrders@akd.uscourts.gov.

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Gary Hunt: Burns Chronicles No 59 Ryan Bundy Holds the Key

On January 26, 2016, several people, in two private vehicles were on their way to a scheduled meeting John Day, Oregon.  While in a forested area, with extremely poor, if not non-existent, cell phone coverage, they were set upon by modern day highwaymen (highwaymen were people who stopped travelers and robbed them).  The driver and passengers of the second vehicle submitted to the demands of the heavily armed interlopers, at gunpoint, to leave the vehicle and sit on the side of the snow-covered roadway.

The driver second vehicle, a white pick-up truck, following the exit of one of the passengers, sped away, seeking the assistance of a peace officer, Sheriff Glenn Palmer, of Grant County, Oregon.  However, within a couple of miles they found that the highwaymen had set up a barricade across the road, barring passage.  The highwaymen, hidden behind their vehicles, began firing shots at the white truck.  This forced the truck off the road, where some rather adept driving may have saved one of the highwaymen’s life, by swerving, at the last moment.

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Oregon refuge occupier Darryl Thorn taken into custody amid concerns over suicidal threats

A judge Wednesday revoked Oregon refuge occupier Darryl Thorn’s release and sent him to jail immediately to undergo a mental health evaluation, concerned about repeated threats he made to his girlfriend that he was going to hang himself or commit “suicide by cop.”

Thorn, who was convicted of federal conspiracy, possession of a firearm in a federal facility, trespass and other charges at a trial this year, suffered an “emotional crisis” after moving to the small eastern Oregon town of Monument, his defense lawyer said.

Thorn, 32, moved there from Spokane in late June on the promise of a job and a residence, only to have both fall through, said Jay Nelson, Thorn’s third defense lawyer in the case. He ended up living in an RV park and searching for odd jobs while his girlfriend often was away traveling for her job in road construction.

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When Prisoners Are a ‘Revenue Opportunity’

Prisoners in Pahrump, Nevada’s CoreCivic operated Federal Detention Center, who have been in other facilities previously with remote Video Chat ability, may feel differently in spite of the cost. Not having it, except for locally at the facility, means families must travel to the southern Nevada desert just to see them on Video.

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Travis Cox called his refuge occupation ‘hasty decision by an arrogant and ignorant young man’

The youngest Oregon refuge occupier to face indictment acknowledged Monday that he was an “arrogant, ignorant young man” who made an impulsive mistake in going to the bird sanctuary last year and doing guard duty during the armed takeover.

“If I could go back, I wouldn’t do it again,” Travis Cox said, standing beside his lawyer during his sentencing hearing.

He was ordered to serve two years of probation, including two months on home detention, for conspiring to impede federal workers through intimidation, threat or force during the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

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