Split decision in 2nd Malheur occupation trial

4 defendants convicted of at least one felony, will be sentenced May 10

Jason Patrick, Darryl Thorn, Jake Ryan and Duane Ehmer. (Multnomah County Sheriff's Office)
Jason Patrick, Darryl Thorn, Jake Ryan and Duane Ehmer. (Multnomah County Sheriff's Office)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — In the end it was a split decision, both in the 2nd trial related to the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and cumulatively for both trials.

Daryl Thorn, Jason Patrick, Jake Ryan and Duane Ehmer were all convicted of at least one felony related to the 41-day takeover in early 2016.

— Thorn and Patrick were found guilty of conspiracy to impede federal workers. Thorn was also guilty of having a firearm in a federal facility.
— Ryan and Ehmer are guilty of depredation of government property, but not guilty of conspiracy.

The jury of 7 women and 5 men began hearing the case February 16, and deliberated for 21 hours over 3 days before returning the verdict shortly before noon Friday.

Their sentencing is set for May 10.

Reaction

(L-R) Jeff Barrow, Ethan Knight, Billy Williams at a press conference following the verdict in the 2nd Malheur occupation trial, March 10, 2017 (KOIN)
(L-R) Jeff Barrow, Ethan Knight, Billy Williams at a press conference following the verdict in the 2nd Malheur occupation trial, March 10, 2017 (KOIN)

The verdict Friday handed prosecutors a measure of redemption after they failed to convict Ammon and Ryan Bundy along with five other occupiers in a high-profile trial last fall.

The men had faced the same primary charge as the Bundy defendants – conspiring to impede Interior Department employees from doing their jobs at the refuge.

In a press conference about 90 minutes after the verdict was delivered, US Attorney for Oregon Billy J. Williams stood next to the 2 trial lawyers who were in the courtroom each day, Ethan Knight and Jeff Barrow.

Williams thanked all the law enforcement agencies and the people of Burns and Harney County.

Some of the questions focused on what made this trial outcome different from the first when those defendants, most notably brothers Ammon and Ryan Bundy, were acquitted.

US Attorney for Oregon Billy Williams at a press conference following the verdict in the 2nd Malheur occupation trial, March 10, 2017 (KOIN)
US Attorney for Oregon Billy Williams at a press conference following the verdict in the 2nd Malheur occupation trial, March 10, 2017 (KOIN)

Knight said for this trial there were “some strategic changes in the manner the evidence was presented, but in the end the facts were essentially the same.”

Knight demurred when asked if the “larger than life” presence of Ammon Bundy made a difference to the first jury. That, he said, is really a question for the jury.

Barrow said focus in the first trial on the employees that were prevented from doing their work “was lost.”

Williams did not think the sequence of the trials made any difference in the outcome.

Statements

Statement from US Fish and Wildlife Service:

“We hope this outcome provides resolution to our employees and the communities they serve. We are eager to move forward and continue strengthening the collaborations and positive relationships between our staff and the residents of Harney County cited throughout this trial that make the refuge a model for community-based conservation.Our gratitude goes to the local, state and federal law enforcement officials who supported us throughout this ordeal, and note the tireless efforts of the US Attorneys office.”

Statement from Defenders of Wildlife:

Defenders of Wildlife is glad that justice was finally obtained in this case. The occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge was a direct assault on the integrity of the National Wildlife Refuge System and put the lives of federal employees at risk. The jury’s verdict ensures that that serious crime against our public lands and federal employees will not go unpunished.”

The defendants

Duane Ehmer of Irrigon, Oregon; Jason Patrick of Bonaire, Georgia; Daryl Thorn of Marysville, Washington; and Jake Ryan of Plains, Montana all waived their right to a speedy trial last fall, preferring to have more time to prepare.

This second trial began February 16 and was related to the 41-day occupation of the federal wildlife facility.

Ammon Bundy testified as a witness for the defense at the end of February. He said he felt “driven” to protest federal control of Western lands after learning that two Oregon ranchers were imprisoned for setting fires on public rangeland.

The Bundys along with a number of other defendants are either on trial or awaiting trial in Nevada over an armed 2014 standoff with federal agents at Cliven Bundy’s ranch.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.