Defendants guilty of occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge have agreed to pay a total of $78,000 in restitution, according to a motion filed in federal court Monday.
The agreement is between the U.S. Department of Justice and 13 defendants who were either found guilty or pleaded guilty to conspiracy to impede federal officers who worked at the refuge from doing their jobs — a felony.
U.S. District Court Judge Anna Brown must sign off on restitution agreement before it’s official. She has wide latitude to make changes to the proposal.
The government initially asked the defendants to pay $920,914, according Andrew Kohlmetz, standby council for defendant Jason Patrick, who is among the convicted men.
“We think it’s a reasonable settlement,” Kohlmetz said. “It’s the product of a very involved negotiations by both sides.”
The Department of Interior estimated its total costs for the occupation exceeded $6 million, according to a July 2016 court filing. Law enforcement’s response to the occupation was about $12 million.
The purpose of restitution is to compensate victims for their loss. It typically covers physical and property damages, but generally doesn’t cover law enforcement costs.
Under the proposal, higher profile members of the 41-day long occupation in eastern Oregon could be ordered to pay as much as $10,000, the motion states. While less culpable members could be required to pay $3,000.
“We looked at the totality of the circumstances and concluded that this is the best option for the U.S. government and taxpayers,” said Jason Holm, a spokesman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Portland.
If approved, the money would likely to go to the Friends of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, a nonprofit that supports the mission of the refuge. That’s according to a source with knowledge of the case who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The highest profile members of the occupation — brothers Ammon and Ryan Bundy — were acquitted of charges by a jury in October. While they’ve been cleared of wrongdoing in Oregon, they remain in custody awaiting trial on charges stemming from a 2014 armed standoff between ranchers and the Bureau of Land Management in Nevada.
The funds from the Bundys’ 13 co-defendants who were guilty would be due immediately, but the government may make considerations for defendants who are incapable of paying, Monday’s joint motion states.
“In exchange for defendants’ agreements to make such payments, the government agrees to forgo all other restitution claims,” the parties wrote.
Kohlmetz said there were so many contested line items in the government’s initial request it could’ve led to another trial.
For example, he said, the government asked for $324,000 for deep cleaning of the refuge buildings.
“I’m sure the buildings needed that, but it struck [Jason] Patrick as a very large line item that needed further explanation,” Kohlmetz said.
Kohlmetz said another factor in restitution is a defendant’s ability to pay.
“All of these gentlemen with the exception of Ammon Bundy had indigent defense council appointed,” he said. “Everyone else had court-appointed lawyers.”
In addition to restitution, many of defendants will serve time, possibly years, in detention centers.
So far, three of the defendants have been sentenced: Geoffrey Stanek, Eric Lee Flores and Travis Cox.
Brown sentenced them to between two and six months of home detention, plus probation.
Here’s a list of the 13 defendants who could be ordered to pay restitution under the agreement:
- Jon Ritzheimer — $10,000
- Jason Patrick — $10,000
- Ryan Payne — $10,000
- Blaine Cooper — $7,000
- Joseph O’Shaughnessy — $7,000
- Corey Lequieu — $7,000
- Brian Cavalier — $7,000
- Darryl Thorn — $5,000
- Jason Blomgren — $3,000
- Travis Cox — $3,000
- Eric Flores — $3,000
- Wesley Kjar — $3,000
- Geoffrey Stanek — $3,000