Wednesday, September 27, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Wednesday, September 27, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

September Trial for Oregon Refuge Occupiers

PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) - Jury selection in the trial of Ammon Bundy and the other militants who seized the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in January will begin Sept. 7, a federal judge said Wednesday.

That start date balances the defendants' right to a speedy trial with the request of prosecutors that the trial be delayed because of its complexity, according to U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown.

At least, that was the balance defense attorneys advocated at earlier hearings in the case. Last month, the government claimed it could take until early 2017 to prepare its case, while defense attorneys asked Brown to observe the 70- day time limit between indictment and trial date dictated by the Speedy Trial Act.

But on Wednesday many of the 26 defendants' attorneys reversed course, saying a September start date wouldn't get them enough time to prepare because the government was holding back evidence they need to conduct their investigations.

Not swayed, Brown told attorneys to prioritize this "highly unusual case," adding, "We're going to move forward."

Later in the hearing, Brown declined to stay an order that would send Ammon Bundy, his brother Ryan, Ryan Payne and Brian Cavalier to join refuge occupiers Pete Santilli and Joseph O'Shaughnessy in Nevada, where the group is facing charges related to the 2014 standoff at patriarch Cliven Bundy's Bunkerville ranch.

Brown said she didn't have the authority to intervene in the Nevada court's handling of its defendants. And even if she could rule on the case, she said a 10-day trip to Nevada wouldn't cause "irreparable harm" to the occupiers.

Ryan Bundy, who is representing himself, took exception to Brown's decision.

"As far as I know, there is no method in science to move back in time," Ryan Bundy said. "Because of that time loss, the damage would be irreparable."

He then conferred with his standby attorney before sitting down.

Families, supporters and media packed the courtroom. One little boy slept under the gallery bench, with federal marshals carefully stepping over his outstretched hand.

At one point, the gallery - which skewed heavily "patriot," as those in Bundy's movement call themselves - erupted in laughter over an unintentionally funny comment by U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Barrow.

Barrow was discussing the difficulty of producing government evidence quickly enough to satisfy both the appetites of defense attorneys and federal rules that require such evidence be encrypted.

Barrow said the government had already released more than 48,000 files amounting to about 100 gigabytes of data. But the encryption process is time-consuming, and Barrow said it takes the government nearly two days to produce a hard drive for just one defense attorney.

"I could probably do it on my home computer faster, but that's not how the government works," Barrow said to the apparent delight of those in the gallery for whom the federal government has little legitimacy.

The courtroom didn't accommodate all of Bundy's supporters. The dozen who didn't fit were left to wait in the hallway in case someone in the courtroom vacated a spot.

A fracas erupted when one Bundy supporter accused a particularly mild-mannered federal marshal of creating a police state.

"You should be ashamed of yourself!" the Bundy supporter yelled.

"Thanks for the encouragement," the marshal replied.

Brown set a one-week deadline for a status report from the committee of defense attorneys she appointed to work with prosecutors on a more streamlined discovery process.

And she said she wanted to hear from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on whether she was right to uphold the order to send the defendants in the Nevada case on their road trip.

"The Ninth Circuit must address it, or they will be transferred," Brown said. "I need to know if I'm wrong about that, both for this case and for the one in Nevada."

Follow @@karinapdx
Categories / Uncategorized

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.