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US Attorney Billy Williams: Occupation Verdict 'Disappointing, Bitterly So.'


Supporters chant the names and verdicts of all seven defendants in the trial of occupiers of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

Supporters chant the names and verdicts of all seven defendants in the trial of occupiers of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

Bradley W. Parks/OPB

“Disappointing. Bitterly so.” That’s how U.S. Attorney Billy Williams describes the verdict acquitting Ammon Bundy, Ryan Bundy and five others charged with conspiring to impede federal workers during the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. 

Williams spoke with OPB reporter Amelia Templeton. Below are a few key points he made.

On The Verdict And Defense

“We respect the jury process. We have the best criminal justice system process in the world. Defense council did a terrific job in representing their clients interest, and challenging the government’s case.   It doesn’t mean that you’re not disappointed in the verdicts. That’s part of doing trial work.”

On Jury Nullification

“I think that would be to jump to conclusions that we don’t have enough information on. I want to give the jury the benefit of acknowledging the work that they put in in deliberating. I don’t think, at least for me, that I have any information — sufficient information — to suggest that it was nullification. I know others are saying that. I don’t know enough about their deliberations and may never know enough to conclude that it was jury nullification.”

On Conspiracy

“Charging someone with criminal trespass in state court, which is a class A misdemeanor, was certainly a possibility. Decisions were made as the occupation went on, that because it was a federal facility, and because it was an armed takeover with guns, and federal property was being taken that it would be more appropriate to bring federal charges given the nature of the conduct. …

“If there had been some other federal statute that specifically addresses the conduct, we would have considered using it. We have and still believe we brought the most applicable and appropriate charges under the evidence, which is our duty.”

On The Challenge Of The Case

“There were a number of defendants. It’s a challenge to pull a team together to be able to work through the evidence that you have, present a case to a  grand jury, and then as we did on this case — on a very short time frame — prepare for pretrial motions, distribution of discovery, getting ready for trial. In terms of the history of preparing for a case of this magnitude, to have it occur during the early part of the year in January and February and go to trial by September is pretty extraordinary. I think that would be true in any district in the United States, in terms of federal prosecutions of a challenging case.”

On The Defense’s ‘Victory’ Claim

“There are a good number of folks in rural America who are of the mind that you don’t take arms and take over a federal facility to prove your point. If you object to policies and practices of the federal government, and in particular a federal land management agency, you work through the channels of a democracy to bring about change. …

“They’re entitled to their opinion, but having grown up in rural America and having spent a fair amount of time out in Burns during the occupation and traveling around the state of Oregon since then, I can tell you that there are a good many people in rural America who would not approve of taking arms and taking over a facility as a legitimate way to complain about policies.”

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