Ryan and Ammon Bundy were among seven suspects in the first wave of trials scheduled to rule on the actions of participants in the Malheur Wildlife Refuge incident, the latest example of a revived sagebrush rebellion pitting ranchers with high-powered rifles and their Constitutional rights advocates against federal land managers and law enforcement officers.
The group's leader, Ammon Bundy, and six others were declared not guilty on Thursday of conspiracy charges stemming from their role in the armed takeover and 41-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Two others who were acquitted were charged only with conspiracy.
The U.S attorney in OR defended the decision to bring charges against the seven people.
There was a bit of drama in the courtroom after the decision, CNN affiliate KOIN reported.
A melee of sorts broke out in the courtroom after the jury verdicts were read, resulting in Ammon Bundy's attorney, Marcus Mumford being tasered and taken down by several U.S. Marshalls.
"The Oregon case and charges are separate and unrelated to the Nevada case and charges", Bogden said. Mumford was cited on charges of disorderly conduct and released later Thursday night. Mumford yelled, as he struggled and was taken down to the floor. "If there's a detainer, show me".
The defendants also were acquitted of illegal possession of firearms in a federal facility and theft of government property, except in the case of Ryan Bundy, for whom jurors were deadlocked on the charge of theft. "I don't see any paper proving their authority to hold him". The judge directed them to move back but moments later, the marshals grabbed onto him. As the noise and commotion escalated, Judge Brown ordered, "Everybody out of the courtroom!" U.S. Marshals Supervising deputy Eric Wahlstrom said Mumford was shocked with a stun gun in a "dry-stun mode" in which the gun was placed against his body but no probes were fired. There's no question the federal government possesses far too much land in the West, and undue restrictions are abundant. The judge said Ammon Bundy would be held because he's also facing charges in Nevada stemming from a 2014 standoff at his father Cliven Bundy's ranch.
Shawna Cox of Kanab, another of the first seven suspects to face trial, told the USA Today Network after she was found not guilty of the charges that US marshals further inflamed tensions when they used a stun gun against one of Ammon's attorneys, Marcus Mumford of Salt Lake City, as Mumford argued with the judge that his client should be freed immediately following the verdict Thursday. "While we had hoped for a different outcome, we respect the verdict of the jury and thank them for their dedicated service during this long and hard trial, " Williams said.
Not long before the takeover began on January 2, locals and federal officials had determined the fate of large swaths of land, Harney County Judge Steve Grasty, the top local administrative official, said last summer in an interview. "I appreciate the due diligence of our federal partners and stand with the communities of Harney County and residents of Burns", she said, referring to the area where the standoff took place.
"The occupation of the Malheur Refuge by outsiders did not reflect the OR way of respectfully working together to resolve differences", Brown said in a statement. Critics of the occupation said the verdict might embolden similar actions by right-wing anti-government groups in the future.
The jurors had heard an impassioned rebuttal to the conspiracy charge by defense attorneys who sought to build up their clients as principled protesters seeking to challenge federal control of public lands and to make a "hard stand" on behalf of two OR ranchers sent back to prison on arson charges when a federal judge ruled they had not served enough time.
The leaders of an armed group that took over a national wildlife refuge in rural OR have been found not guilty of conspiracy and possession of firearms at a federal facility.
One man was killed during an attempted traffic stop weeks into the occupation.
An activist from Boise, Idaho, who once camped by a memorial to occupier LaVoy Finicum at the site where he was shot dead by police, predicted that the verdict would encourage others to act. Officials said that the state troopers feared for their lives when Finicum reached toward his jacket, where they later said they found a loaded 9mm handgun.
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