Six defendants in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation are headed to Nevada on April 13.
On Tuesday, District Judge Anna Brown ordered U.S. Marshals to take the men to Nevada to be arraigned on charges stemming from the 2014 standoff over Cliven Bundy's cattle. She also ordered law enforcement return the men to Oregon within 10 days.
"In effect, we would be loaning them back to Nevada for their initial appearance," Judge Brown said at a hearing in Portland.
The hearing provided a glimpse of how Brown and federal prosecutors in two states intend to move forward with what the judge called "two complicated cases in two districts involving many of the same defendants."
The Oregon case, with a jury trial already set for September, will likely move forward more quickly, but prosecutors intend to start court proceedings in the Nevada case as well, pursing them on "parallel tracks."
Tuesday's hearing also illustrated the many challenges the entangled cases pose. Assistant Federal Public Defender Shari Kauffman, who represents militant organizer Ryan Payne in Nevada, said she will oppose Brown's order that her client return to Oregon.
"Once he appears here, we are going to ask that he remain here," she said via a video link. "This case in Nevada carries a life sentence [...] We cannot get ready for a case via telephone."
Brown issued her order in response to a request from prosecutors and the district court in Nevada. Those ordered to appear in Nevada include Ammon Bundy, Ryan Bundy, Ryan Payne, Blaine Cooper, Brian Cavalier and Pete Santilli.
Oregon defense attorneys for the six opposed the move. They argued that, in effect, U.S. attorneys were putting the men on trial in two places at the same time.
Lisa Hay, the federal public defender for Oregon and Ryan Payne's attorney in the Malheur case, said allowing the case in Nevada to proceed would interfere with the defendants' right to a speedy trial in Oregon and suggested that prosecutors intended to slow the case down.
"They would like a year for this to go to trial," Hay said.
Ryan Bundy, who is representing himself, concurred with those arguments.
Prosecutors responded that the District Court in Nevada had full legal authority to summon the defendants to appear there.
"The Oregon case does not have to be complete before the Nevada case begins," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Gabriel.
Prosecutors also argued that regardless of what jurisdiction the defendants were in, they would have access to their defense attorneys over the phone.
After some deliberation, Judge Brown ordered federal agents to transfer the six defendants to Nevada, saying she expects them to return to Oregon promptly.
"I do not find precedent that co-equal courts do not have the power to cooperate," she said.
Brown added that her decision to send the men to Nevada for one short absence does not signal she intends to concur with such requests in the future.