Jury Finds All Malheur Refuge Defendants Not Guilty Of Federal Conspiracy, Gun Charges
A federal jury on Thursday found Ammon Bundy, his brother Ryan Bundy and five co-defendants not guilty of conspiring to prevent federal employees from doing their jobs through intimidation, threat or force during the 41-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
The Bundy brothers and occupiers Jeff Banta and David Fry also were found not guilty of having guns in a federal facility. Kenneth Medenbach was found not guilty of stealing government property, and a hung jury was declared on Ryan Bundy's charge of theft of FBI surveillance cameras.
"More than we could have hoped for,'' said one of Ammon Bundy's lawyers, J. Morgan Philpot.
"Stunning,'' said defense lawyer Lisa Ludwig, who was standby counsel for Ryan Bundy.
"I'm just thrilled,'' said Neil Wampler's attorney Lisa Maxfield.
The jury of nine women and three men returned the verdicts after five hours of deliberations on Thursday in the high-profile case that riveted the state and drew national and international attention to the federal bird sanctuary in rural eastern Oregon.
Each defendant stood separately, facing the jury, as the judge read the verdicts. Ammon Bundy, his hands clasped behind his back, nodded as the "not guilty'' verdicts were read for him first. As he sat, he smiled and rubbed the shoulder of his lawyer, Marcus Mumford.
His older brother Ryan Bundy stood. As his "not guilty'' verdicts were read, he nodded, and mouthed to the jury, "Thank you.'' Defendant Neil Wampler hugged and kissed his defense lawyer, Maxfield.
The coda to the stunning verdict, undoubtedly a significant blow to federal prosecutors, was when Ammon Bundy's lawyer Marcus Mumford argued that his client, dressed in a gray suit and white dress shirt, should be allowed to walk out of the court, a free man.
"If there's a detainer, show me,'' Mumford stood, arguing before the judge.
Suddenly, a group of about six U.S. Marshals surrounded Mumford at his defense table. The judge directed them to move back but moments later, the marshals grabbed on to him.
"What are you doing?'' Mumford yelled, as he struggled and was taken down to the floor.
As deputy marshals yelled, "Stop resisting,'' the judge demanded, "Everybody out of the courtroom now!''
Mumford was taken into custody, a member of his legal team confirmed.
Ammon Bundy's lawyer J. Morgan Philpot, said afterwards on the courthouse steps that Mumford had been arrested and marshals had used a stun gun, or Taser, on his back. Another member of Ammon Bundy's legal team Rick Koerber, echoed Philpot, saying he heard Mumford questioning in court why they were using a Taser against him.
Philpot decried the marshals' treatment of Mumford in the courtroom. "What happened at the end is symbolic of the improper use of force by the federal government,'' he said.
By 6:30 p.m., Mumford was released from custody. He confirmed that he was struck with a stun gun once while he was on the floor of the courtroom.
"I grew up on a dairy farm, so am I used to some rough treatment, sure?'' he said. But he said the actions of the U.S. marshals were uncalled for.
"All I was asking for was papers. Just show me you have the authority to take Mr. Bundy into custody.''
As to the verdict, "Very pleased, very gratified. This jury was dedicated. They listened to our case.''
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