U.S. District Court Judge Anna Brown sentenced defendant Jason Patrick to 21 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release for his role in the 2016 occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
In March 2017, a federal jury convicted Patrick and Darryl Thorn on felony conspiracy charges. That same month, Brown also convicted Patrick of three misdemeanor charges: trespassing, tampering with vehicles and equipment and destruction and removal of property at the refuge.
According to court documents, co-conspirator Jason Blomgren described Patrick as “No. 5” in the chain of command in occupation efforts.
Brown issued her sentencing after a three-hour hearing that involved testimony from six witnesses, all from Georgia, who spoke to Patrick’s moral character and the opportunities awaiting him in freedom.
“I would describe his political views as constitutionally driven,” said Catherine Bernard, an attorney from Georgia. Bernard testified that she met Patrick during both of their campaigning efforts for the Republican Party in Georgia. “He treated the constitution as a document that represents we the people.”
Another witness, a veteran speaking through tears, said he wouldn’t be alive had Patrick not helped him through his suicidal thoughts. A home builder who introduced himself as Patrick’s best friend, insisted: “Jason is not a domestic terrorist.”
They characterized Patrick as a helpful, selfless man. They testified that they didn’t know what happened at the wildlife refuge, but they know that all he wanted to do was help.
When asked if he had any remarks, Patrick quoted Georgia Congressman and Civil Right’s Activist John Lewis: “If you see something that is not right, then you have to speak up and speak out and find a way to get in the way.”
“I regret [the occupation] turned into a big political event and polarized the country,” Patrick added.
Before issuing her sentencing, Brown addressed the witnesses directly.
“Domestic terrorism is not the issue,” Brown said. “No matter how well-meaning [someone is], when they choose to take the law into their own hands, they need to be held responsible.”
Brown drew contrasts between Patrick and Rep. Lewis.
“John Lewis stood his ground easily and respectfully to advocate for changes,” Brown said. “A motive to be helpful has to be viewed in the context of respect for the law.”
Brown told the courtroom that there was nothing she heard in the hearing that reassured her that Patrick would not continue to decide for himself “which laws to respect and which he won’t.”
“And that’s unfortunate,” Brown added.
“I don’t think there’s any sentence in the world that will deter you.”
Through that logic, Brown said, a higher sentence makes sense.
“But in the interest of justice, the low end of 21 months is fair,” Brown concluded.