Jury acquits leaders of standoff at national wildlife refuge in Oregon of conspiracy

(L-R, top to bottom) Ryan Bundy, Ammon Bundy, Jeff Banta, Neil Wampler, Kenneth Medenbach, David Fry and Shawna Cox. (Multnomah County Sheriff's Office)
(L-R, top to bottom) Ryan Bundy, Ammon Bundy, Jeff Banta, Neil Wampler, Kenneth Medenbach, David Fry and Shawna Cox. (Multnomah County Sheriff's Office)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — About 10 months after the 41-day takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, a jury found 7 occupiers not guilty of conspiring to impede federal workers from doing their jobs at the refuge.

The verdict came one day after a juror was dismissed due to concerns over his impartiality.

Ammon Bundy’s attorney Marcus Mumford was tackled to the ground in court after arguing that his client was free to go in light of the verdict. He and his brother, Ryan, are still under federal indictment in Nevada.

Mumford was detained by about half a dozen U.S. Marshals.

An alternate juror was called in Thursday morning and deliberations began once again. It took just hours for the jury to decide the fates of Ammon Bundy, Ryan Bundy, Neil Wampler, Kenneth Medenbach, Shawna Cox, Jeff Banta and David Fry.

The trial began September 7 and was expected to last until perhaps Thanksgiving. But the presentation of evidence by both sides went much faster than expected.

Judge Anna J. Brown sent the case to the jury on October 20. About a full day into their deliberations, one of the jurors questioned the impartiality of another, who previously worked for the Bureau of Land Management.

After questioning that juror in front of attorneys for both sides, Judge Brown dismissed Juror 11, replacing him with Juror 18 (one of 7 alternates.)

Jury deliberations began again on October 26.

The case

The 41-day occupation began January 2 when protesters marched through the streets of Burns in support of ranchers Dwight and Steve Hammond. They were ordered to return to prison to complete their sentences for burning land on federal property.

After the march, Bundy and others went to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and began the occupation.

The Bundy brothers held nearly daily press briefings to make their points known — they wanted the refuge returned by the federal government to Harney County

But county officials never supported the plan, and a series of contentious town hall events brought emotions to the forefront.

On January 26, the Bundys and others were intercepted along Hwy 395 on their way to John Day. There were 2 cars in the caravan of occupiers — one driven by an FBI informant and the other by militia spokesperson LaVoy Finicum.

Finicum tried to get away from the FBI and OSP blockade. When he plowed into a snow bank on the side of the road, he got out of the car and was shot to death as he reached for his gun.

Most of the occupiers left the refuge soon after. But 4 people held out — including Banta and Fry — who didn’t surrender until February 11.

Just before they surrendered, though, Cliven Bundy — the father of Ammon and Ryan, who led an anti-government standoff at his Bunkerville, Nevada ranch in 2014 — came to Oregon to support the remaining occupiers.

He was arrested by federal agents as he got off the plane in Portland. All the Bundys now also face federal charges related to Bunkerville.

In all, about 2 dozen people were arrested in connection with the occupation.

The trial of these 7 was the first one. Another 7 people face trial in February.

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