PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A crowd gathered outside the U.S. Federal Courthouse in downtown Portland hours before Ammon Bundy took the witness stand for the first time in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge case.
Before testimony began, Judge Anna J. Brown allowed some video of the 2014 standoff outside Cliven Bundy’s Bunkerville, Nevada ranch to be entered as evidence.
Judge Brown explained the video could be used as evidence to corroborate Ammon Bundy’s expected testimony about the impact of the event and how it affected his state of mind prior to the Malheur occupation.
Later, in the jury’s absence, Judge Brown told the court she would allow the argument to be made that Bundy and other Malheur occupiers expected law enforcement to use force against them because of what happened in Bunkerville.
The defense will be able to argue that Bundy armed himself and asked other occupiers to carry weapons, not in an effort to impede federal workers, but to exercise their second amendment right in case force was used against them, like it was in Bunkerville.
Defendant David Fry‘s father William was the first witness to take the stand Tuesday.
Fry was the last of 4 holdouts to surrender at the refuge, and he allegedly threatened to commit suicide while on the phone with FBI crisis negotiators.
William, a retired Marine, portrayed his son as a tech savvy 28-year-old who spent his childhood living in a number of places, including Arizona and Japan, before the family settled in rural Ohio. David’s mother is from Japan and he is fluent in Japanese.
William told jurors his sons were tormented by racist classmates during their time in school. “It was ugly,” William said.
David passed a proficiency test and left high school 2 years early as a result of the incessant racism he faced, his father said.
After college, David worked at his father’s dental practice. He spent his free time playing video games, building and repairing computers for free “out of the goodness of his heart” and researching issues he was passionate about. His father said those included the Fukushima nuclear disaster and abortion, among other things.
David “gets frustrated with corruption,” his father said, and his frustration with the Hammonds’ case is what prompted him to join the occupation at Malheur. But David didn’t arm himself as he headed to Oregon, his father said, adding that his son “wasn’t ever really into firearms,” despite being gifted a couple over the years.
He was motivated to join the occupation to support ranchers who he believed were falsely characterized as terrorists. He wanted to bring his computer equipment to Oregon and broadcast what was going on at the refuge, and in turn, help people around the world understand the issue at hand.
“He’s not anti-government,” David’s mother Sachiyo Fry told KOIN 6 News. “He’s anti-corrupt government.”
Burns resident Linsay Tyler was brought to tears while telling jurors she felt the Hammonds were serving time for something federal officers do all the time.
“It is absolutely wrong what happens to ranchers,” an emotional Tyler testified.
She also talked about a town hall meeting she attended on January 6.
During Monday’s testimony, Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward also talked about the meeting. He told the jury a majority of community members at the meeting raised their hands when he asked, “How many people in this room want a peaceful ending to the standoff? How many want the occupiers to go home?”
When asked if she remembered that moment, Tyler responded by saying, “You mean the trick question? Yes.”
Sheriff Ward said he stood by his remarks that a majority of people raised their hands in response to the question, even though some accuse him of misleading them by asking 2 things at once.
Bundy became emotional as he testified for the first time Tuesday afternoon. He told Judge Brown late Monday he felt he had “no other choice but to take the stand.”
“I am certain the jury is confused as to why we were in Harney County… what we did [while we were there] and how the government removed us,” Bundy said.
Judge Brown warned Bundy any testimony regarding his involvement in the 2014 armed standoff outside his father’s Bunkerville, Nevada ranch could be used in the case against him that is currently pending in Nevada.
Bundy said he was “excited” to discuss Bunkerville.