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Ammon Bundy Considering Civil Rights Lawsuit Against Multnomah County


Ammon Bundy was the leader of the armed occupation at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

Ammon Bundy was the leader of the armed occupation at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

Amanda Peacher/OPB

Ammon and Ryan Bundy are actively considering whether they should pursue a civil rights lawsuit against the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office for conditions at the county detention center.

In court documents released Tuesday, the leaders of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation give a list of conditions at the jail they said are violating their constitutional rights.

Among the complaints, the Bundys and several other occupiers — including Kenneth Medenbach, Pete Santilli, Jason Patrick, Blaine Cooper and Ryan Payne — said they should have more access to the jail’s law library, discovery materials, office supplies and religious underwear.

Sheriff’s office officials rejected many of those requests.

“Given that there is no viable agreement between the jail and defendants in this case, Ammon and Ryan Bundy are contemplating whether to seek relief in state court for civil rights violations or through [federal] Court via express modification of the pretrial detention provisions,” wrote Mike Arnold, lead counsel for Ammon Bundy.

Ammon Bundy, Feb. 24, 2016

Ammon Bundy, Feb. 24, 2016

Courtesy of the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office

Arnold stated that the Malheur defendants are not being given an adequate chance to defend themselves because of the violations, and the harm is becoming “enhanced” as a Sept. 7 trial date approaches.

The Bundys and their co-defendants face a series of felonies for taking over the refuge near Burns, Oregon, for 41 days, including conspiracy to impede federal workers, weapons charges and damage of government property.

In Tuesday’s filing, Multnomah County did agree to give the defendants more than the standard six hours access to the law library on days when other inmates cancel their visits. According to Arnold, one inmate in particular — Medenbach — had been denied access to the library because of a miscommunication. Arnold said that issue has since been resolved.

Jail officials said they would also consider giving Santilli and the other inmates access to “a laptop, iPad or similar device to review audio and video recordings.”

“MCSO is willing to consider permitting inmates to have a solid-state device like an iPad, loaded with discovery including video, legal materials and a word-processing program to be made available to the person only in his cell,” jail officials responded to the request.

They noted there is a precedent for some inmates to have access to computers while being detained. In 2010, The Washington Times reported that the suspected conspirators behind the 9/11 attacks had access to laptops while being detained at Guantanamo Bay.

The Bundys also asked that the jail accommodate their religious practices.

“Including being permitted to wear temple garments beneath their jail clothes, being permitted to gather together with other LDS adherents to give and receive blessings, and extra towels or bedding in their cells to allow for kneeling to pray,” Arnold wrote.

The sheriff’s office denied the Bundys access to Latter-day Saints gatherings as requested because they are ordered to be separated, but said they could have an extra towel and wear religious garments under jail uniforms if they are worn in a “agreed-upon manner.”

“Counsel will be responsible to arrange for soiled garments to be collected for laundering weekly and to ensure clean garments are provided in exchange,” jail staff wrote.

But the sheriff’s office also denied many requests from the inmates, including access to internet and chairs in their cells, access to other defendants so they can “strategize together” before the trial, unmonitored phone calls, a cordless printer and scanner, more storage space in jail cells, and “real pens.”

In his conclusion, Arnold said Ammon Bundy may pursue a civil rights lawsuit based upon U.S. Code Section 1983, which guarantees recourse for anyone who has been denied civil rights. 

Ryan Bundy

Ryan Bundy

Courtesy of the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office

“My rights are being violated. My right to life is being violated. All of my First Amendment rights are being violated. My right to freedom of religion is being violated,” Ryan Bundy wrote in a supporting statement. “My Second Amendment rights are being violated. I never waived that right. My Fourth Amendment rights are being violated.

“I could argue that my right to life hasn’t been taken. But the FBI tried to take that right when they attempted to kill me.

“They missed on that one,” he added. “I still have the bullet to prove that.”

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