PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) — Ammon Bundy's lawyer continued Tuesday to argue legal theories that aren't at issue in the trial of seven occupiers of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, while an attorney for the government said the defendants have basically admitted their guilt.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ethan Knight said Bundy and his six co-defendants' ultraconservative beliefs about the rightful role of the federal government under the Constitution are irrelevant. Instead, what matters is whether the occupiers broke the law by conspiring to keep refuge employees from doing their jobs.
Knight said Bundy and his co-defendants think the law applies differently to them, that they believe if they are acting for the right reasons, they can choose which laws to follow.
"It's not about the beliefs or values of any of these defendants," Knight told the jury. "It's about them deciding which laws apply and which don't. It's about a collective decision to take what isn't theirs and make it theirs."
Ammon Bundy's attorney Marcus Mumford continued to argue the legal theories that his client says are at the root of the occupation: that the Constitution prevents the federal government from owning land and that the sentences given to two local ranchers convicted on federal arson charges were the result of government tyranny.
Mumford painted Bundy as a valiant patriot, fighting a David-and-Goliath battle against government overreach. He told the jury Bundy is in jail because of that same "dark" force.
"I hope you can see what we've been pushing for," Mumford said. "What do you see? Government overreach. The government going too far. It happened to the Hammonds. You've heard that. But can you not see that it's happening to Mr. Bundy as well?"
Mumford presented a civics class of sorts, complete with a colorful slideshow, presidential quotes and details on the rules of criminal procedure.
A series of slides detailed the steps Bundy says he took to address his political complaints before he organized the January armed occupation that caused an estimated $6 million in damage to the refuge, left dozens in jail and one man dead.
One slide read: "Being ignored: The worst feeling ever."
Mumford did eventually get around to addressing the conspiracy charge his client is actually facing.
He argued Bundy couldn't have conspired to keep federal employees from working at the refuge because he didn't care about the specific duties of the refuge employees.
"That argument only works if the main duties of Fish & Wildlife employees were to enslave the American people," Mumford said.
Mumford renewed his arguments that the occupiers were working to improve the refuge by cleaning it up, at one point presenting a novel legal question to the jury:
"Is it a conspiracy to clean up rat poop? Or is it responsible?"
Knight's arguments were more narrowly focused.
"This is not about federal land use policy," Knight said. "It's not about the Hammonds. The government doesn't dispute that they hold these beliefs," Knight said. "But at the end of the day, you can't conspire to take somebody else's work space and say, 'You're no longer welcome to work here, go home.'"
Closing arguments will continue on Wednesday, before the case goes to the jury for a verdict.
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