Corey Lequieu, 46, pleaded guilty to a federal charge Thursday for his role in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation.
Federal prosecutors had accused Lequieu of being one of the leaders of the occupation.
“Evidence at trial will show that he was a planner and organizer of the armed takeover,” U.S. Attorney Craig Gabriel wrote in support of a pretrial motion to keep Lequieu detained.
In Portland on Thursday, Lequieu pleaded guilty to a federal conspiracy charge to impede officers of the United States. Federal prosecutors said they would drop two other counts against Lequieu: possession of a firearm in a federal facility and the use of a firearm related to a crime of violence.
As part of the plea deal, Lequieu will also not face additional felony charges in Oregon or Nevada. He will be sentenced Aug. 25.
Prosecutors have recommend Lequieu serve 2 1/2 years for the conspiracy charge, but U.S. District Court Judge Anna Brown noted that it’s merely a recommendation and that she’s required to come up with her own sentence for Lequieu.
“It is not a cooperation agreement,” said Lequieu’s defense attorney Rámon Pagán, following the hearing at the federal courthouse in downtown Portland.
“He has not met with the government; he has no intention of meeting with the government; he is not providing testimony for the government,” he said. “There is no recommendation from the government for any lesser time because of an agreement to do so.”
Pagan said his client would’ve likely received less time had he agreed to cooperate.
Pagan said Lequieu’s criminal history factored heavily into his decision to take the deal. Lequieu was convicted of several offenses and “spent significant time in a penitentiary,” according to the attorney.
Had Lequieu been convicted of the weapons charges, he could have faced extensive prison time.
In pretrial documents, prosecutors showed images of Lequieu carrying a semi-automatic rifle at the refuge, and stated he was living in Harney County in December 2015 — the month before the 41-day occupation began.
Prosecutors also said Lequieu had made threats against law enforcement, citing a memo from the Oregon State Police to the FBI on Dec. 17, 2015.
“Lequieu, 41 yoa [sic] is talking openly about killing police officers. He apparently is in the area. He blames [law enforcement] for his troubles,” the OSP bulletin stated.
Lequieu is the second person convicted of crimes related to the occupation, but he is the first to admit to the conspiracy charge occupation leaders, such as Ammon and Ryan Bundy, face.
Scott Willingham, 49, admitted to stealing government property from the refuge earlier this month, but he was not charged in the larger case.
The Bundys and other occupiers in that larger case will next appear in court May 23, as defense attorneys argue a variety of pretrial motions to dismiss the charges.