Bundy Brothers Not Guilty Verdict Shocks Prosecutors: Seven Defendants In Malheur Wildlife Refuge Standoff Set Free
The Bundy brothers have been found not guilty. The activist ranchers and five others who took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon were acquitted on all charges by a federal jury on Thursday. One of the seven defendants proclaimed the acquittal was a big “win for rural America.”
The federal jury found the Bundy brothers, Ammon Bundy and Ryan Bundy, along with five other anti-BLM (Bureau of Land Management) activists, not guilty on the multiple felony conspiracy and firearms charges levied against them, the Seattle Times reports.
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“This is off-the-charts unbelievable,” Matthew Schindler, attorney for defendant Kenneth Medenbach, said. “I had been telling my client you can count on being convicted. You don’t walk into a federal court and win a case like this. It just doesn’t happen.”
The federal jury found Ammon Bundy, Shawna Cox, David Lee Fry, Jeff Wayne Banta, Kenneth Medenbach, and Neil Wampler not guilty on all counts, the Washington Post notes. The same jury found Ryan Bundy not guilty on conspiracy and possession of firearms charges, but they were unable to reach a verdict on a theft charge also levied against the Bundy brother.
“While we had hoped for a different outcome, we respect the verdict of the jury and thank them for their dedicated service, during the long and difficult trial,” Billy Williams, the Oregon District United States Attorney, stated in a media release.
The Malheur Wildlife Refuge standoff lasted 41 days over the course of last winter and ended on February 11, 2016. The trial had continued for five weeks before the case was handed over to the federal jury for deliberation. One juror was removed and replaced due to claims of bias.
The members of the federal jury rejected the conspiracy to disable federal workers from doing their jobs charges. Although multiple guns and ammo were seized after the standoff ended, the jurors declined to levy a guilty verdict on related charges because all of the firearms were legally owned and had not been used to commit a crime.
Marcus Mumford, the attorney for Ammon Bundy, argued for his client to be released immediately. United States District Court Judge Anna Brown denied the request. The judge said the Bundy brothers must first be escorted back to Nevada with federal marshals to stand trial for the BLM standoff at their father, Cliven Bundy’s ranch.
“Mr. Mumford, you really need to not yell at me now or ever again,” Judge Brown said.
Ammon Bundy’s attorney continued to protest the order by the federal judge. U.S. Marshals reportedly tackled the lawyer and used a stun gun on him, and then cleared the courtroom.
“Don’t tase me. That’s what I was saying. You don’t need to I’m on the ground,” Mumford said to reporters after he was released from law enforcement custody.
Supporters of the Bundy brothers and the five other defendants on trial for protesting the ownership and control of public lands by the BLM celebrated outside the courthouse after the verdict was read. The group also uttered a prayer for LaVoy Finicum, the rancher killed by federal agents when the Malheur occupiers left the refuge to attend a public meeting.
During the closing arguments in the case, which lasted for two days, the prosecutors maintained the Bundy brothers and their cohorts were not on trial for their beliefs. Protesters staunchly maintained the anti-BLM activists were being treated unfairly by a federal government that allowed similar acts of civil disobedience to occur without non-violent leaders being arrested. The Bundy supporters have frequently pointed out that the Black Lives Matter and Occupy activists were never charged with federal crimes for taking over public spaces and preventing government employees from doing their jobs.
Ammon Bundy and Ryan Bundy are slated to stand trial in Nevada early next year. A total of 26 Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupiers were arrested on conspiracy charges. Charges were dropped against one of the occupiers and 11 pleaded guilty. Seven of the defendants chose not to be tried at this time with the Bundy brothers and other group leaders. The trial for the remaining anti-BLM activists is scheduled to begin on Valentine’s Day.
[Featured Image by Rick Bowmer/ AP Images]