David Lee Fry, one of the last occupiers of the Malheur refuge, first traveled to Harney County only after his parents left for vacation.

David Lee Fry, one of the last occupiers of the Malheur refuge, first traveled to Harney County only after his parents left for vacation.

Amanda Peacher/OPB

Defendants accused of conspiring to occupy a federal bird sanctuary in eastern Oregon appeared in court Monday to argue against using Facebook evidence gathered by the FBI  in the September trial.

Attorney Per Olson, who’s representing David Fry in the case, argued two motions to suppress evidence on behalf several of the defendants charged in the case.

Olson said federal law enforcement agencies obtained a search warrant from a judge who didn’t have the jurisdiction to award it. He also said the government was overly broad in its search warrant, which violated the Fourth Amendment against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Olson provided details in court about how the government executed its search warrant. He said federal law enforcement officers in Portland started to go through the data they received from Facebook locally, but became “overwhelmed” because of the volume of evidence. Olson said they needed to bring in an office at the Department of Justice in Washington D.C. to help.


An Occupation In Eastern Oregon

Ongoing coverage of the federal case against the people involved in the 41-day armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and how life has changed in Harney County, Oregon.

“It’s been a bit of an adhoc process,” Olson said.

Pushing the fact that the FBI’s search was overly broad, Olson said the FBI collected 800 pages of Facebook material on Fry, his client, and prosecutors are only using six pages as evidence.

Federal prosecutors said the search warrant was obtained properly.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Gabriel said the request was narrow, spanning from November 1, 2015 to when the defendants were arrested. Gabriel said it also named specific defendants.

Gabriel said there was probable cause that the defendants used Facebook to communicate about their plans to occupy the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge before it began. He said the occupiers also used Facebook to communicate during the occupation.

U.S. District Court Judge Anna Brown, the trial judge in the case, said she’ll rule on the motions to suppress Facebook evidence as soon as she can, but wants to take the necessary time to weigh the legal arguments.

Brown has denied a series of other requests from defendants, including a motion to change the location of the trial.