PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) - A federal judge rejected claims that Ammon Bundy intended the armed occupation of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge to be peaceful, but agreed to release two of Bundy's six arrested associates when the occupation ends.
Ammon Bundy told U.S. Magistrate Judge Stacie Beckerman at a hearing Friday that love and the desire to protect freedom motivated his month-long occupation of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge that ended with a co-conspirator dead.
"I do love the Constitution," Bundy said Friday. "It allows us to live in happiness, to live as free people. I do love this country very much. My only desire from the very beginning was to preserve freedom for the people so we can live in happiness in this beautiful country."
Several of his groups' attorneys compared the continuing standoff, with four people still holed up in the Malheur Refuge, to the civil rights protests of the 1960s.
"The idea of an armed occupation is a radical notion," said Lisa Hay, attorney for Ryan Payne. "So is the idea of sitting in on buses or at lunch counters or throwing tea overboard."
Ammon Bundy's attorney, Lissa Casey, called the occupation a peaceful protest motivated by Bundy's love for his country.
"There's a distinction between a violent attempt to overthrow the government and an attempt to change the government's role," Casey said. "This was never about an armed occupation."
Judge Beckerman wasn't buying it.
"Are you contesting whether there were arms at the refuge?" he asked Casey.
"I am not," Casey said.
"Or whether it was an occupation?" Beckerman asked.
"I am not," Casey said.
"So the term 'armed occupation' is appropriate," Beckerman said.
"There were firearms out there," Casey said. "But to portray Mr. Bundy as being willing to use those firearms as others at the refuge have professed a willingness to do is inaccurate."
Beckerman was critical of Bundy's attempts to distance himself from the violent threats made by some occupiers, including his brother, Ryan Bundy, who told The Oregonian in the early days of the occupation that he and other militants were "willing to kill and be killed if necessary."
"I reject the argument that just because you weren't the one making the threats you weren't responsible for the threat of violence, because everyone there knew the threats that were being made and chose to stay," Beckerman said.
"Your actions, not your speech, threatened the lives of law enforcement officers who were just doing their jobs," Beckerman said. "You created a danger to the people of Harney County, and to every person who went out to the refuge."
"This was not a theoretical threat," the judge added. "We know it was dangerous because one person lost his life."
Ryan Bundy's attorney, Andrew Bates, said the militants were not to blame for the death of LaVoy Finicum, who was shot by Oregon State Police during a traffic stop Tuesday in which the Bundy brothers and three others were arrested.
"As far as the danger, from what I read, the only violence in this situation was at the hands of the government," Bates said.
A video taken from a helicopter appears to show Finicum reaching into a pocket of his jacket before he was shot. The FBI said he had a loaded 9 mm pistol there.
U.S. Attorney Ethan Knight asked the judge to keep the men in jail, saying their political beliefs and actions are incompatible with the stipulations required for pretrial release.
"This is a unique case," Knight said. "The offense was predicated with the use of force and weapons and with the outright rejection of government and any kind of order. Under those circumstances, the idea that the defendants would comply with the conditions of release is inherently implausible."
At the arraignment hearing on Wednesday, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Barrow said none of the defendants should be released because they could be expected to go straight back to the refuge to "bunker down."
"This is a rare circumstance, where the criminal conduct alleged in a conspiracy is still ongoing," Knight said Friday.
Bates said it was unlikely that the militants would regroup at the refuge.
"It would be impossible for anyone, including my client and your honor, to get on that refuge right now," Bates said. "Impossible."
Beckerman agreed to release Joseph O'Shaughnessy and Shawna Cox when the last four people leave the refuge.
But she said Bundy, his brother Ryan Bundy, Ryan Payne, Jason Patrick and Dylan Anderson must await their trials in jail.
With proceedings running into the evening, Beckerman postponed detention hearings for three other defendants: Pete Santilli, Brian Cavalier and Duane Ehmer.Follow @@karinapdx
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