Under the cover of darkness, about 22 FBI agents surreptitiously walked onto the Mahleur National Wildlife Refuge, entering from the east, three days after the arrests of the occupation leaders and the fatal police shooting of occupation spokesman Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, according to testimony Monday.
“We went in on Jan. 29 (2016) and remained there at least a 24-hour period,” FBI agent Kevin Murray testified for the government on the fifth day of the second Oregon standoff trial.
In between a display of firearms to jurors in the second Oregon standoff trial, a debate about journalistic privilege took center stage in a federal courtroom Friday and drew a larger crowd of spectators than usual.
U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown granted Oregon Public Broadcasting’s motion to quash a subpoena for former reporter John Sepulvado to testify and authenticate his January 2016 recorded interview with Ryan Bundy during the takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
A remarkable video shot in the darkened bunkhouse kitchen of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge reveals the chaos and anger that erupted after the arrests of occupation leaders and the fatal shooting of the armed takeover’s spokesman.
Defendant Jason Patrick, who went by the code name “Clooney,” radioed to security teams to come to the bunkhouse for a vote the night of Jan. 26, 2016. He stood in the kitchen in the middle of a group gathered around him, wearing his trademark blue blazer and holding a lit cigarette in his hand.
Over the objection of a prosecutor, a defense lawyer Wednesday asked Oregon’s recently retired top FBI agent about his reaction to the jury verdict from the first trial stemming from the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
“You do not believe the participants that went to trial in the fall of 2016 were held accountable, that’s correct?” asked Michele Kohler, representing defendant Duane Ehmer.
A lawyer for former Oregon Public Broadcasting reporter John Sepulvado has filed a motion to quash the government’s subpoena that calls on Sepulvado to testify and authenticate his January 2016 recorded interview of Ryan Bundy during the takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
Attorney Duane A. Bosworth, representing Oregon Public Broadcasting and Sepulvado, argues that the compelled testimony will “chill future sources, even nonconfidential ones” for Sepulvado and all other OPB reporters.
FBI agents kept away from the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge for weeks based on what they knew about occupation leader Ammon Bundy and his armed supporters and Bundy’s pledge to take a “hard stand” and turn the property into a base for patriots for years, according to testimony Tuesday from the man who led the police response.
“For us to go in there, we believe would provoke a confrontation,” said Greg Bretzing, who just retired as Oregon’s FBI special agent in charge.
A federal prosecutor Tuesday told jurors they won’t hear evidence of a formal meeting, written contract or verbal agreement between the defendants on trial, charged with conspiring to impede federal employees from carrying out their work at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
Instead, they’ll be able to infer through the words and actions of defendants Jason Patrick, Duane Ehmer, Jake Ryan and Darryl Thorn, that they used the federal property as their own last winter as a “platform for their cause,” essentially keeping staff from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or Bureau of Land Management from coming to work.
A jury of seven women and five men, plus four alternates, will return to court next week for opening statements in the trial of four remaining defendants in the occupation of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys picked them after U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown spent a day and a half of questioning about 58 prospective jurors out of an original pool of 1,000 people from across the state.
The judge referred to the jurors only by number in court and rarely identified the person’s hometown or type of work.
Most of the jurors are from outside of Multnomah County and come from outlying areas in western Oregon, including coastal communities, a defense lawyer said. A couple are from Multnomah County and at least one from central Oregon.
House Bill 2365 is what’s known as a message bill, a legislative way for lawmakers to take a stand, even though their proposal won’t pass. It’s walking dead.
The bill would establish a task force to study transferring most of Oregon’s federal land to state control. Places like the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area and the Mount Hood National Forest would move a step closer to being owned by a state already on the brink of selling public land.
Defense lawyers for the four Oregon standoff defendants set for trial this week want Pete Santilli, who awaits prosecution in Nevada, to be flown to Oregon to testify on their behalf and to impeach another co-defendant, Blaine Cooper, now expected to be a government witness.
Jury selection starts Tuesday morning for the remaining four defendants accused of federal conspiracy, weapons and depredation of government property charges stemming from the 41-day seizure of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge last winter.
There’s no dispute that Oregon standoff defendants Duane Ehmer and Jake Ryan used a government excavator to dig two trenches during the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
The argument during their trial starting next week will be whether the two “willfully” broke the law, knowing the excavator and land belonged to the federal government, and that they went ahead anyway.
Prosecutors will play videos taken by David Fry, another refuge occupier, and aerial surveillance videos showing Ehmer and Ryan taking turns using the excavator to dig the trenches on Jan. 27, the day after the arrest of takeover leaders and the police shooting of occupation spokesman Robert “LaVoy” Finicum.
U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown is standing by her past ruling that employees at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge can’t testify about any fear they may have felt during last winter’s occupation by armed protesters.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Barrow had urged the judge to reconsider and allow limited testimony in the second occupation trial from U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service employees who worked at the refuge. He said he expected one or more employees would testify that they had seen media coverage of the armed takeover and as a result, “feared coming to work.”
Prosecutors and defense lawyers working on the second Oregon standoff trial have begun the painstaking process of whittling down prospective jurors based on their answers to lengthy questionnaires designed to gauge their exposure to the first trial, familiarity with the current defendants and opinions on the First and Second Amendments.
The court plans to seat 12 jurors and four alternates for the trial set to start next week in last winter’s armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. A thousand prospective jurors each received a questionnaire to complete and send back, though about 200 didn’t return them.
“It’s quite unfortunate,” U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown said.
Note: Graphic language included in story.
Duane Ehmer, one of four remaining defendants set for trial this month in the takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, got into a testy exchange with a federal prosecutor when he took the witness stand Monday during a pretrial hearing.
At one point, Ehmer blurted out: “That’s bullshit!” in response to a prosecutor’s remark and question. U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown interrupted to remind Ehmer that he was in a courtroom and to “please refrain from using coarse language.”
Three of seven remaining Oregon standoff defendants each pleaded guilty Monday to a single misdemeanor trespass charge and were sentenced to a year of probation and ordered to pay $1,000 restitution to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
Idaho couple Sean Anderson and Sandra Anderson and Dylan Anderson of Provo, Utah, each admitted they entered, occupied and used the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge without authorization.
Sean and Sandra Anderson were among the last four holdouts at the federal sanctuary last winter. Dylan Anderson isn’t related to them. He spent about three weeks at the refuge.