Jury Finds all Oregon Standoff Defendants Not Guilty of Federal Conspiracy, Gun Charges

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The jury of nine women and three men returned the verdicts after five hours of deliberations on Thursday in the high-profile case that riveted the state and drew national and international attention to the federal bird sanctuary in rural eastern Oregon.

Maxine Bernstein reports: A federal jury on Thursday found Ammon Bundy, his brother Ryan Bundy and five co-defendants not guilty of conspiring to prevent federal employees from doing their jobs through intimidation, threat or force during the 41-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

The Bundy brothers and occupiers Jeff Banta and David Fry also were found not guilty of having guns in a federal facility. Kenneth Medenbach was found not guilty of stealing government property, and a hung jury was declared on Ryan Bundy’s charge of theft of FBI surveillance cameras.

“More than we could have hoped for,” said one of Ammon Bundy’s lawyers, J. Morgan Philpot.

“Stunning,” said defense lawyer Lisa Ludwig, who was standby counsel for Ryan Bundy.

“I’m just thrilled,” said Neil Wampler‘s attorney Lisa Maxfield.

The jury of nine women and three men returned the verdicts after five hours of deliberations on Thursday in the high-profile case that riveted the state and drew national and international attention to the federal bird sanctuary in rural eastern Oregon.

[Read the full text here, at OregonLive.com]

Each defendant stood separately, facing the jury, as the judge read the verdicts. Ammon Bundy, his hands clasped behind his back, nodded as the “not guilty” verdicts were read for him first. As he sat, he smiled and rubbed the shoulder of his lawyer, Marcus Mumford.

His older brother Ryan Bundy stood. As his “not guilty” verdicts were read, he nodded, and mouthed to the jury, “Thank you.” Defendant Neil Wampler hugged and kissed his defense lawyer, Maxfield.

The coda to the stunning verdict, undoubtedly a significant blow to federal prosecutors, was when Ammon Bundy’s lawyer Marcus Mumford argued that his client, dressed in a gray suit and white dress shirt, should be allowed to walk out of the court, a free man.

U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown told him that there was a U.S. Marshal’s hold on him from a pending federal indictment in Nevada.

“If there’s a detainer, show me,” Mumford stood, arguing before the judge.

Suddenly, a group of about six U.S. Marshals surrounded Mumford at his defense table. The judge directed them to move back but moments later, the marshals  grabbed on to him.

“What are you doing?” Mumford yelled, as he struggled and was taken down to the floor.

As deputy marshals yelled, “Stop resisting,” the judge demanded, “Everybody out of the courtroom now!”

Mumford was taken into custody, a member of his legal team confirmed.

Ammon Bundy’s lawyer J. Morgan Philpot, said afterwards on the courthouse steps that Mumford had been arrested and marshals had used a stun gun, or Taser, on his back. Another member of Ammon Bundy’s legal team Rick Koerber, echoed Philpot, saying he heard Mumford questioning in court why they were using a Taser against him.

Philpot decried the marshals’ treatment of Mumford in the courtroom. “What happened at the end is symbolic of the improper use of force by the federal government,” he said.

By 6:30 p.m., Mumford was released from custody. He confirmed that he was struck with a stun gun once while he was on the floor of the courtroom.

“I grew up on a dairy farm, so am I used to some rough treatment, sure?” he said. But he said the actions of the U.S. marshals were uncalled for.

[Read the full story here, at OregonLive.com]

“All I was asking for was papers. Just show me you have the authority to take Mr. Bundy into custody.”

As to the verdict, “Very pleased, very gratified. This jury was dedicated. They listened to our case.”

Just after the verdicts were announced, people emerged onto the front steps of the courthouse to tell a crowd of media and onlookers.

Supporters of the defendants gathered in a joyous hug. One of them, Brand Thornton of Las Vegas, one of the original occupiers who accompanied Ryan Bundy and others onto the refuge on Jan. 2 and was called as witness by the defense, said that he has been at the trial since Oct. 2.

The verdict “means everything,” Thornton said. It’s huge for ranchers and land rights within Harney County and across the West, he said.

“We did something peaceful and wanted to stay peaceful,” said Thornton, who has kept vigil outside the courthouse, blowing a shofar.

“This is for the people of Oregon,” Thornton said. “This was never for us.”

Wampler appeared on the courthouse steps and described the verdict as a “stunning victory for rural America.”

David Fry’s lawyer Per C. Olson said, “It was the right result.”

“I think the jury saw through this that they were well-meaning, well-intentioned individuals,” Olson said. The jury saw that the defendants cared about the Hammonds and didn’t like how the federal government was treating them.

Maxfield, who represented Wampler, came out of the courthouse, holding up her fists. She said she has never seen “anything like this happen,” where multiple defendants in a federal court trial were all acquitted, and called it one of the most significant cases in her career.

Defendant Shawna Cox said she had a “peaceful feeling,” as she waited for the verdicts, “but I didn’t expect we’d all be found not guilty.”

“I wept,” Cox said. “It brings me to tears. I’m so grateful to the jury.”

Defense lawyer Matthew Schindler, standby counsel to defendant Kenneth Medenbach who was excused from court because of medical ailments, said he called his client right away….(read more)

Source: OregonLive.com



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