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.
Defendants Ammon Bundy, Ryan Bundy, Neil Wampler, Kenneth Medenbach, Shawna Cox, Jeff Banta and David Fry were all acquitted of federal conspiracy to impede workers from doing their jobs at the refuge through threats, intimidation or force.
Here is some of the reaction following the verdict delivered in US Federal Court in downtown Portland:
From Governor Kate Brown:
“While I respect the jury’s decision, I am disappointed. The occupation of the Malheur Refuge by outsiders did not reflect the Oregon way of respectfully working together to resolve differences. I appreciate the due diligence of our federal partners and stand with the communities of Harney County and residents of Burns.”
Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward:
I have been notified of the not guilty verdict in the United States Federal trial of Ammon Bundy and other individuals involved in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge takeover.
While I am disappointed in the outcome, I believe our form of government and justice system to be the best in the world. These folks were tried in a court of law and found not guilty by a jury of their peers.
This is our system and I stand by it.
Sen. Jeff Merkley:
“While in our judicial system it’s important to respect a jury’s decision, I am troubled by this outcome. The notion that an armed occupation could take over a citizen-owned facility and cause extensive damage, and yet face no consequences within our legal system, is deeply concerning. My thoughts are with the Harney County community, and I look forward to continuing to work with the community as it continues to heal.”
From the FBI:
Co-defendants Jason Blomgren, Brian Cavalier, Blaine Cooper, Eric Flores, Wesley Kjar, Corey Lequieu, Joseph O’Shaughnessy, Ryan Payne, Jon Ritzheimer, Geoffrey Stanek, and Travis Cox previously pled guilty. Co-defendants Dylan Anderson, Sandra Anderson, Sean Anderson, Duane Ehmer, Jason Patrick, Darryl Thorn, and Jake Ryan will stand trial beginning February 14, 2017. Charges against co-defendant Peter Santilli were previously dismissed.
“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 difficult trial,” said Billy J. Williams, United States Attorney for the District of Oregon. “We strongly believe that this case needed to be brought before a Court, publicly tried, and decided by a jury. Despite the verdict reached, I want to personally thank all of the law enforcement personnel who worked tirelessly to bring about a peaceful resolution to the Malheur occupation. I also want to thank the residents of Burns, Hines, and Harney County and members of the Burns Paiute Tribe for their patience and resolve throughout this process.”
“For many weeks, hundreds of law enforcement officers — federal, state, and local — worked around-the-clock to resolve the armed occupation at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge peacefully. We believe now — as we did then — that protecting and defending this nation through rigorous obedience to the U.S. Constitution is our most important responsibility,” said Greg Bretzing, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon. “Although we are extremely disappointed in the verdict, we respect the court and the role of the jury in the American judicial system.”
From the Center for Western Priorities:
“We are deeply disappointed in today’s verdict, which puts our park rangers and scientists at further risk just for doing their jobs. The outcome of today’s trial will undoubtedly embolden extremist groups. It’s imperative that local, state, and federal law enforcement ensure the safety of our land managers.
“At the same time, it’s important to remember that no member of the Bundy family walked free after today’s verdict. The most serious charges are still pending in Nevada, in a separate case with much more evidence than was allowed at the trial in Oregon. We look forward to justice being served in that case next year.”
From Senator Ron Wyden:
Senator Wyden echoed the sentiments we’ve seen from other lawmakers and government officials in that he was disappointed in the results, but respects the American judicial system as a whole.
“You can disagree with a ref’s call, but that’s no reason to trash the rule book, especially when we have a set of rules that we’ve had for 200 years and they are the envy of the world.”
From The Audobon Society of Portland
Audubon Society of Portland is deeply disappointed by the jury’s verdict in the case of seven defendants who occupied Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in early 2016.
We respect the legal process, but believe that the armed occupation of public lands, which included destruction of public property and disturbance of Native American archaeological sites, should have resulted in substantial penalties. Important restoration work on these public lands was disrupted, federal employees were intimidated, and today — more than ten months after the occupation — the public is still not able to access refuge headquarters.
Taxpayers have been left with a bill that is expected to exceed $6 million. Regardless of the verdict, the occupation of Malheur remains an attack on public lands and resources.