Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Wednesday, June 19, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Judge Orders Bundy YouTuber Held in Jail

PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) - Radio host Pete Santilli will remain in jail pending his trial on charges related to the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and the 2014 standoff at Cliven Bundy's Nevada ranch, despite an earlier ruling to release him.

U.S. District Judge Paul Papak on Friday ruled that Santilli should be held pending charges in the Nevada case, making unclear the status of an earlier ruling by U.S. District Judge Anna Brown that he be released to await his trial on the Oregon charges.

U.S. Attorney Steven Myhre said Santilli, who hosts "The Pete Santilli Show" on YouTube with his girlfriend, Deborah Jordan, used his show to recruit participants for a conspiracy to stop the government from enforcing a court order to confiscate cattle from Cliven Bundy's ranch.

"Without his role, it's doubtful that they could have gathered up as many supporters as they did," Myhre said. "He may have feigned he was a reporter, but he was there for a purpose and that was to recruit, record and participate in the events."

Myhre told the judge that Santilli espoused dangerous views.

"It's this notion that citizens have a right to take up arms against federal officers when he believes, or they believe, that they have violated the Constitution," Myhre said. "But there is no right to take up arms against a federal officer and prevent them from doing their duty.

Myhre said Santilli's actions spoke for themselves.

"There's an old saying," Myhre told the judge. "When people show you who they are, you should believe them. We would submit that he has shown the court who he is - that he will act out threats of violence and that he has no respect for court orders as they would apply to him."

Santilli's lawyer, Thomas Coan, made arguments similar to those that won his client's supervised release at a hearing in February.

Coan said Santilli participated in events at the Bundy ranch and at the refuge as a journalist. He drew a line between Santilli's outrageous on-air persona and what Coan said was his demonstrated behavior of compliance with police orders.

"I believe it's true that he shows who he is through his behavior, as opposed to what he says," Coan told Papak. "He has complied with every single order given to him by an officer of the law," Coan said.

Coan pointed out that Santilli did not resist his arrest in Burns. He also played a video clip of the standoff in Nevada, showing that Santilli encouraged other protesters to follow police directives.

"Comply with their orders," Santilli yelled to protesters on the video. "Comply. That's when you get in trouble."

But Judge Papak wasn't buying it.

"There's substantial evidence presented by the government that you were a recruiter and an inciter," Papak told Santilli.

And Papak said Santilli's role as the host of a radio show didn't necessarily give him legal protection under the First Amendment.

"Though you may have been reporting at some times, in my view you can't immunize your own conduct simply by reporting on it."

Follow @@karinapdx
Categories / Uncategorized

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.