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Defense Develops Weapons Theory In Refuge Trial


A man stands guard outside the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon on Jan. 5, 2016. The defense is developing a new theory of why occupiers brought weapons and kept them at the refuge.

A man stands guard outside the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon on Jan. 5, 2016. The defense is developing a new theory of why occupiers brought weapons and kept them at the refuge.

Rick Bowmer/AP

The defense team for Malheur refuge occupation leader Ammon Bundy is taking its time before sending him to the witness stand.

Monday afternoon first opened up as a possible time for Bundy to testify in the trial of seven occupiers of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Then that time shifted to Tuesday morning.

But Bundy still waited out the morning and midday recesses without taking the stand. It now appears Bundy will testify Tuesday afternoon, according to his attorney Marcus Mumford.

Aside from Bundy’s delayed appearance on the stand, the defense began building a theory about the reason for firearms at the refuge, and David Fry’s father spoke about his son’s decision to go to Oregon.

The Defense’s Theory About Weapons

Throughout the Tuesday morning testimony, a clear thread began to appear in the defense’s case about weapons.

The prosecution, who last week presented a large display of weaponry and ammunition recovered from the refuge, has attempted to show the guns were used to intimidate federal employees. However, the defense is arguing occupiers brought guns and kept them at the refuge out of concern for hypothetical actions by federal law enforcement.

U.S. District Court Judge Anna Brown said she will allow the defense to develop that theory before the jury. However, Brown added the theory does not address the main charge all of the defendants face — that they conspired to impede federal workers from doing their jobs by using threats, force or intimidation.

The defense attempted to draw the connection between weapons and growing worry about the FBI through witness Chris Briels.

A Burns, Oregon, resident since 1978, Briels explained what he described as suspicious activity by people near the armory in Burns, who he later discovered were federal agents. Briels testified he would sometimes follow them and call the police.

Briels also visited the refuge to meet with occupiers, including Ammon Bundy, multiple times. It appeared the defense tried to show Bundy was receiving news from outside the refuge that was alarming.

Security At The Refuge

In his testimony, Briels also detailed his visits to the refuge.

When Briels would visit, he said, a white pickup truck was parked at the refuge entrance with armed guards standing by. The guards would radio back to people on the refuge for approval. The truck would back up, clearing a path, and Briels would proceed onto the refuge, according to his testimony.

Briels said this check-in procedure happened every time.

The prosecution jumped on this detail, which repeated points they raised while laying out their case: The organized security operation established by the occupiers impeded federal workers from doing their jobs.

Fry’s Father Testifies

David Fry
Hometown: Blanchester, Ohio
Not guilty

Fry worked as a website designer and content producer after arriving at Malheur. Fry was the last occupier to surrender.


David Fry wanted to join the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation to support the ranchers and be at a place the world was watching, his father said.

William Fry took the stand Tuesday morning for the defense in the refuge occupation trial, offering insights into his son’s motivations for joining the occupiers.

William Fry testified that his son, one of seven defendants, owns three weapons back home in Ohio but did not take them when he joined the occupation.

He also said that only one of those guns is even assembled and that David Fry hasn’t ever really shown an interest in guns; he described his son as being more interested in computers.

According to his father, David Fry was a very bright child and enrolled in college early after dealing with intense teasing and racism at high school.

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