Nate Jackson / October 28, 2016

Oregon Occupiers Acquitted

The Bundys are vindicated, but still face trial in Nevada.

In January, we reported that a group of armed activists took over the closed and unoccupied headquarters building at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in southeast Oregon, part of an escalating conflict over land use out West. They stayed for 41 days. The only casualty was the occupiers’ spokesman, Robert LaVoy Finicum, who was killed by law enforcement in what the district attorney ruled a justified shooting. The occupiers vigorously dispute that characterization. Rancher Ammon Bundy led the group, and if his name sounds familiar it’s because he’s the son of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who had a similar standoff with the feds in 2014. Essentially, this Oregon dispute arose from two things: First, the truly unjust treatment and sentencing of Dwight Hammond and his son Steven, ranchers punished for arson after they managed controlled burns on their property a decade ago; second, the use of the federal land at the wildlife refuge — Bundy and the other ranchers claim the feds have unlawfully taken it, and the ranchers should be able to continue using it. There’s no question the federal government possesses far too much land in the West, and undue restrictions are abundant.

On Thursday, a federal jury in Portland, Oregon, acquitted all seven defendants of conspiracy to impede federal officers through intimidation, threats or force. Four of the men were also found not guilty of firearms charges. Ammon and Ryan Bundy remain in custody, however, to face trial in Nevada next year along with their father. The Wall Street Journal reports, “Eleven other defendants in the case have pleaded guilty, while seven are set to stand trial in February.”

The trial didn’t proceed or end without incident, either. One juror was dismissed after another juror wrote to the judge asking, “Can a juror, a former employee of the Bureau of Land Management, who opens their remarks in deliberations by stating ‘I am very biased’ be considered an impartial judge in this case?” And Ammon Bundy’s attorney, Marcus Mumford, was tackled, tased and taken into custody by U.S. marshals after he began shouting that his client go free despite his impending Nevada trial. We’ll say one thing for the Bundys and Co.: They don’t go down without a fight.

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