Militia Members Face Conspiracy Charges

     PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) – The Bundy brothers and five of their closest supporters made their first appearance in Federal Court Wednesday afternoon on charges of conspiracy to use force to keep federal officers from doing their jobs.
     Ammon and Ryan Bundy kept up their amiable cowboy personas in the packed courtroom, while the other defendants were considerably more subdued than they had been during their 24-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
     Appearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Stacie F. Beckerman at the Mark Hatfield Courthouse on Wednesday were occupation ringleader Ammon Bundy; his brother Ryan Bundy; YouTube radio show host Pete Santilli; Ammon Bundy’s bodyguard Brian “Booda” Cavalier; Shawna Cox, who was often photographed at Ammon Bundy’s elbow; Montana electrician Ryan Payne; and Joe O’Shaughnessy, an unemployed firefighter who lives in Arizona with his mother.
     Fellow Malheur militant and self-identified “anti-Muslim activist” Jon Ritzheimer was arrested Tuesday in Arizona. He appeared before a magistrate judge in Phoenix on Wednesday and is scheduled for a detention hearing next week.
     Militant spokesman and Arizona rancher LaVoy Finicum, reported shot to death during the FBI ambush that netted five of the eight arrests, has his own section in the criminal complaint detailing his involvement in the occupation. He is not listed as a defendant. The FBI said one person was killed during the arrests but will not say who that was.
     All eight face federal charges of conspiring to impede officers of the United States from discharging their official duties through the use of force, intimidation or threats. The maximum sentence is six years.
     All had court-appointed attorneys except Ammon Bundy, who amicably grasped the shoulder of a U.S. Marshal as he entered the courtroom. He patted his lawyer, Melissa Casey, on the back.
     Ryan Bundy sauntered into the courtroom and nodded at the galley.
     “How are you today?” he asked all present. He appeared to be in good spirits, despite reports from multiple sources that he was shot during his arrest. He had bandages around both forearms, as if from an IV.
     Ryan Bundy stood to address the judge.
     “How are you today?” he asked Beckerman.
     Beckerman smiled. “I’m good,” she said. “How are you?”
     “Real good,” Ryan Bundy said.
     Santilli, always boisterous during the occupation, was quiet and polite during his court appearance. He scanned the galley avidly when he entered and left, as well as several times when the judge was talking.
     Lawyer Tom Cohen argued for Santilli’s release, saying he had no criminal record other than a 1983 conviction for disorderly conduct, which he explained that Santilli had “forgotten” during his pre-hearing meeting with his lawyer.
     Beckerman did not grant that request.
     Each of the defendants is scheduled to appear in court again on Friday to discuss their release pending trial.
     Federal Public Defender Lisa Hay argued that Payne should be released today. She said the government had no right to delay the detention hearing.
     In its criminal complaint, the government accuses Payne of writing an email in November encouraging “patriots” to travel to Harney County to protest “government tyranny.” It says he gave a speech to reporters during the occupation and included a picture of him at the refuge.
     Hay said that’s not enough to delay a detention hearing after the first appearance. She said a delay was warranted only in the case of a violent crime, or one where the maximum sentence is life or death. Other than that, the government has to prove that a defendant is likely to try to intimidate a witness in order to delay a detention hearing.
     “This is a conspiracy charge, not one of violence,” Hay said. “The government’s evidence is physical presence and political speech, neither of which is illegal.”
     U.S. Attorneys Geoffrey Barrow and Ethan Knight said release was a no-go.
     “This is an ongoing and armed occupation,” Barrow said. “If we release them now, they will just go straight back to Malheur and bunker in with their co-conspirators for what could be a violent stand.”
     Hay scoffed at that argument.
     “If that’s the level of the government’s argument, that this person should be detained on the basis of his political speech, then they really haven’t met their burden,” Hay said. “He is presumed innocent.”
     Beckerman ordered all seven defendants held until Friday’s hearing. She said each one was a flight risk and a risk to public safety.

%d bloggers like this: