A federal prosecutor spent little more than 15 minutes cross-examining Ammon Bundy, who for the last three days has been testifying in his defense in the trial of seven people accused of occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
Hometown: Emmett, Idaho
Leader of the Malheur refuge occupation. Ammon Bundy was acquitted in Oregon. A mistrial was declared in Nevada.
In a series of rapid-fire questions, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ethan Knight asked Bundy about his leadership of the occupation, his views on public lands and the presence of firearms on the refuge.
Knight began by asking if Bundy was the leader of the occupation. When Bundy said no, Knight pointed to earlier testimony in which Bundy referred to himself as “sort of” the leader. Bundy then clarified by saying he teaches the people principles and then lets them govern themselves.
Knight also asked Bundy if he had a $530,000 federal loan back by the Small Business Administration to support his fleet management business. Regarding the loan, Bundy responded “I’m not sure that’s not allowed by the Constitution.”
During cross-examination, Bundy acknowledged he hoped to take over the refuge through adverse possession — a common law principle that allows a person to occupy and manage property as a way to transfer ownership. Knight asked Bundy if he made changes to the refuge. Bundy said he had made changes to refuge signs but denied building a road or accessing government computers.
Day Begins With Direct Testimony
Earlier in the day during direct testimony and then questioning by the defense, Ammon Bundy said that he ate at a local Chinese restaurant, got a haircut and visited his home in Idaho three times — all while the occupation was going on.
Bundy testified he was never arrested as he went about everyday business during the midst of the takeover. But that isn’t to say he didn’t notice a police presence around the refuge.
“You couldn’t go through Burns without seeing law enforcement,” Bundy told the court
The Jan. 26 Arrest
Oregon State Police troopers eventually took Bundy into custody during a traffic stop on a stretch of remote highway between John Day and Burns on Jan. 26 — a day Bundy also spoke about during his testimony.
“I had red dots all over me,” Bundy said, saying officials had their weapons pointed at him as he sat in the stopped vehicle.
Bundy said he thought if he moved in any way whatsoever, he would be shot. After getting out of the vehicle, Bundy said he was made to crawl backward to police.
“They were constantly threatening to open fire,” he said.
Bundy said he asked why he was being arrested and who was arresting him, but he said he didn’t get a response. He and the others who were arrested that day “laid on the cold asphalt for a couple of hours,” he said.
Bundy also testified he did not have a firearm on him at the time of his arrest.
“If I was [carrying a gun], I would have been just fine with that too,” Bundy said. “Guns are very much a part of our culture.”
Shows Of Support
Bundy — who spoke extensively about his views on public land issues and his interpretation of the Constitution — said his cause was legitimized by the support he received: support shown by politicians who visited the refuge during the takeover; support offered in the form of donations and legal help.
When asked if he — as the federal government charges — tried to prevent federal employees from doing their jobs through force, threats and intimidation, Bundy replied, “No.”
“Everything we did was the exact opposite of force, threats and intimidation,” Bundy said.
Bundy also talked about a galvanizing moment captured on camera: him cutting a barbed-wire fence on the refuge.
Bundy said the fence was new. Ranchers, he said, had been using the rangeland on the other side of the fence. Without access to that land, they could not ranch, he said.
“The rancher had rights to the property. The fence was put up. They asked us to remove it,” Bundy said.
Shortly after the fence removal, the rancher whose cattle grazed that land — Tim Puckett — told the Oregonian he was “very upset” with Bundy and did not give him permission to cut the fence.
A Concern About Cumulative Testimony
At the end of the day’s session, U.S. District Court Judge Anna Brown suggested to the defense that they bring a more streamlined case to the jury when they return Tuesday, following the Columbus Day holiday.
“You’re going to lose them,” Brown said of the jury to the defense. “What we did with Mr. Bundy took too long.”
This article was updated with quotes from U.S. District Court Judge Anna Brown at 4:40 p.m.
This article was updated with details of the prosecution’s cross-examination at 4:10 p.m.
This article was updated with details and quotes from Bundy’s testimony at 2:30 p.m.
This article was originally published at 7:30 a.m.