Head of Oregon’s FBI: Bureau doesn’t designate Proud Boys as extremist group | oregonlive.com

The FBI has not designated the Proud Boys, whose members routinely appear at right-wing protests in downtown Portland, as an extremist group, Oregon’s top FBI agent said Tuesday.

The FBI never intended to do so when it briefed Clark County law enforcement leaders recently about regional threats, Special Agent in Charge Renn Cannon said during a wide-ranging meeting with media at the bureau’s Portland headquarters.

His comments directly counter an internal Clark County Sheriff’s Office memo that suggested otherwise and drew national attention.

In the FBI’s slide show in Clark County, agents talked about the Proud Boys, white supremacists, militia groups and anarchists, Cannon said.

Started in 2016 by conservative writer Gavin McInnes, the Proud Boys have billed themselves as “pro-Western fraternal organization” and have vigorously fought accusations by critics that members are associated with white nationalists.

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Center for Biological Diversity seeks to dismiss Cliven Bundy suit over federal land

The Center for Biological Diversity is asking a judge in Nevada to dismiss Cliven Bundy’s latest lawsuit seeking state control of federal land, arguing his claims lack merit and have been rejected numerous times already.

The center on Thursday filed a request to dismiss Bundy’s lawsuit and a motion to intervene in the case in Clark County District Court in Las Vegas. The center is a nonprofit environmental organization that cites protecting endangered species and their habitats as its mission.

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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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In his first wide-ranging interview, Dwight Hammond Jr, shares his thoughts

BURNS — Three-and-a-half hours after pardoned Oregon rancher Dwight Hammond Jr. arrived home, he gathered with his wife and sons around his dining room’s large circular table and got back to business.

They hooked him into a live feed of an auction in Nevada where Hammond Ranch Inc.’s 155 calves were on the block.

Hammond could have called in to participate in the annual sale but he held back, not wanting to jerk the reins from his daughter-in-law and others who have run the family’s cattle ranch while he and his son Steven served arson sentences in federal prison.

“We’ve had to trust them. No use to question their judgment now,” the 76-year-old said later, sitting in his living room, back in his trademark Wrangler jeans, brown cowboy boots and a blue button-down shirt that matched his eyes.

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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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Reports on OSP trooper’s past shootings don’t have to be shared with indicted FBI agent

Prosecutors don’t have to share investigative records on three earlier shootings by a veteran Oregon State Police officer in the case of an indicted FBI agent, a federal judge ruled.

U.S. District Judge Robert E. Jones made that ruling Monday afternoon after a meeting in his chambers with prosecutors and defense lawyers who are preparing for FBI Agent W. Joseph Astarita’s July 24 trial.

Astarita is accused of denying that he fired two shots as Oregon occupation spokesman Robert “Lavoy” Finicum emerged from his pickup truck at a police roadblock on Jan. 26, 2016, in Harney County. That was the day the FBI and state police arrested 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.

Astarita, a member of the FBI’s elite Hostage Rescue Team, has pleaded not guilty to three counts of making a false statement and two counts of obstruction of justice.

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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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VINDICATION, The Bundys Walk Free!

“Cliven Bundy was accused of conspiracy against the government,” reported the Western Livestock Journal in a January 8 article on the Bundy ruling. “Instead,” it noted, “the Bundy trial showed it was the government that was conspiring against him.” That charge does not exaggerate in the least the gravity of the government’s wrongdoing in the case.

During her ruling of a mistrial on December 20, Judge Navarro spent nearly 45 minutes reading from the bench, details of the federal misconduct, that she found to be so outrageous and flagrant. A central component of that misconduct concerned the government’s willful withholding of thousands of pages of evidence that supported the Bundys’ defense, and to which the defendants were legally entitled.

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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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Rebuke of U.S. attorneys in Cliven Bundy case: ‘Every prosecutor’s nightmare’

The lead prosecutor in the Nevada standoff case against Cliven Bundy, two of his sons and a fourth alleged ringleader told a jury in his opening statement last month that the case centered on the need to respect the rule of law.

Five weeks later, it was the prosecution team’s abuse of the rule of law that sunk the case, leading to a judge’s declaration Wednesday of a mistrial.

U.S. District Judge Gloria M. Navarro methodically listed the prosecution’s six separate violations of the Brady law, which requires turning over evidence potentially favorable to the defense. The judge further ruled that each violation was willful.

If ever there was a time when federal prosecutors needed to make sure they acted with complete integrity it was in the high-stakes Bundy case, legal observers say. The defendants already held a deep suspicion of the government and had successfully rallied followers to their cause.

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BLM investigator alleges misconduct by feds in Bundy ranch standoff

Prosecutors shared it last week with defense lawyers for Bundy, his two sons and co-defendant Ryan Payne as they were in the midst of their conspiracy trial, but it’s not part of the public court record.

The memo prompted Cliven Bundy’s lawyer to file a motion early Monday to dismiss the case, already in disarray over concerns raised previously about the government’s failure to promptly share evidence with the defense.

The judge sent the jury home for more than a week as she tries to sort out the claims and prosecutors scramble to save their case.

The memo comes from Larry Wooten, who had been the lead case agent and investigator for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management after the tense confrontation outside the patriarch’s ranch near Bunkerville. Wooten also testified before a federal grand jury that returned indictments against the Bundys. He said he was removed from the investigation last February after he complained to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Nevada.

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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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Former inmate shares life behind bars with Cliven Bundy

“Tell me about this standoff.”

And with that, Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy found a biographer behind bars.

Bundy had invited a fellow inmate to sit down at a table with him. They chatted about farming, raising cattle, growing melons and grandchildren.

Soon, they were walking regular laps together around the inside of a large unit that housed 94 bunk beds between concrete cinderblock walls about 60 miles west of Las Vegas.

And when the time seemed right, inmate Michael Stickler broached the subject of why the Bundy patriarch was in custody at the Southern Nevada Detention Center in Pahrump.

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Prosecutors ordered to share reports on any camera, armed officers’ surveillance outside Bundy ranch

LAS VEGAS — Prosecutors in the Bundy trial must provide information by noon Saturday on all armed federal officers who did surveillance outside the Bundy ranch and any cameras capturing images of the Bundy home between March 1 and April 12, 2014, a judge ordered Wednesday.

The information must be turned over to the defense.

It could help Cliven Bundy, sons Ammon Bundy and Ryan Bundy and co-defendant Ryan Payne challenge the allegation that they used “deceit and deception” to encourage supporters to come to the ranch by saying the house was surrounded, federal snipers were outside the home and the family felt isolated.

Defense lawyers said they learned for the first time on Tuesday of two federal officers dressed in camouflage and armed with AR-15 rifles posted outside the Bundy residence at night.

That information was contained in a written report that they received from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in preparation for Wednesday’s hearing on disputed discovery evidence.

“Wouldn’t it be important for the defense to know FBI agents are overlooking the Bundy residence with an AR-15?” asked Brenda Weksler, one of Payne’s defense lawyers. “How do we not have this until yesterday?”

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Mass shooting in Las Vegas will prejudice jurors in upcoming Bundy trial, defendant argues

A defendant in the trial set to begin in Nevada next week against Cliven Bundy and others in their 2014 standoff with federal agents has asked for a delay, citing the mass shooting in Las Vegas by a man who lived a few miles from the Bundy Ranch.

The carnage will prejudice potential jurors and prevent a fair hearing, the lawyers for Ryan Payne argued in a motion to continue the trial for at least two months.

Las Vegas is deep in mourning following Sunday’s unfathomable massacre at an outdoor country music festival that killed 59 people and wounded more than 500, the lawyers wrote. The gunman, Stephen Paddock, lived in Mesquite, Nevada, just northeast of the Bundy Ranch and where Bundy and his armed supporters faced off with government agents.

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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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White House hits back at Oregon’s senators over appeals court nomination

In the ongoing dispute between the state’s two U.S. senators and the Trump administration, the White House counsel accuses the lawmakers of failing to consider the administration’s pick for a judicial vacancy on a federal appellate court.

The White House last week nominated Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan Bounds, a young, politically conservative federal prosecutor, for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, both Democrats, want U.S. District Judge Marco A. Hernandez, a Republican, for the vacancy.

Wyden and Merkley have vowed to block Bounds’ nomination, saying that he wasn’t vetted through their bipartisan judicial selection committee.

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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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