Geoffrey Stanek, one of the defendants who pleaded guilty in the 2016 occupation of an Oregon wildlife refuge, was sentenced Monday to six months’ home detention and two years’ probation.


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.

“There will be people that think you should be sent to prison,” said U.S. District Court Judge Anna Brown in federal court in Portland. “Some think everybody should have gone to jail.”

Brown said she was giving Stanek, a 27-year-old father and military veteran, the opportunity to move on with his life, while still doing her part to ensure he would not answer a call to take up arms again.

“Honestly, I don’t want to see you again,” Brown told Stanek. “That would mean you’re doing well.”

With a Skousen pocket Constitution — the calling card of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation — poking out of his green plaid shirt pocket, Stanek replied: “No offense. I don’t want to see you either.”

Stanek was one of the first defendants to plead guilty to conspiracy to impede federal employees from going to work at the remote wildlife refuge near Burns, Oregon.

Unlike others in the case, Stanek never sought to withdraw his guilty plea. Brown said that underscored Stanek’s acceptance of responsibility and weighed in his favor as she imposed the sentence.

“At some point, the criminal line was crossed,” Brown said. “Presiding over this case since the beginning has been the most challenging legal experience in my career.”

Brown agreed with prosecutors that Stanek was among the least culpable members of the occupation. But Brown indicated she wouldn’t be as lenient if he violated his parole. 

“If it works, great,” she said. “If it doesn’t, I’m here to send you to prison.”

After three months, Stanek can request an early end to his home detention. Brown said she would grant the motion if his parole officer supported it.

During his two-year probation, Stanek won’t be allowed on federally owned land without written permission from his parole officer. As a felon, he won’t be allowed to possess a firearm and could be barred from voting in some places.

Stanek arrived at the refuge on Jan. 7, 2016 with body armor, an AR-15 rifle and medical supplies.

“You were preparing for a bloodbath,” Brown said at the sentencing.

Stanek left the refuge Jan. 26, 2016, after police arrested the leaders of the 41-day occupation and killed Arizona rancher Robert “LaVoy” Finicum during a traffic stop.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Gabriel said Monday that Stanek performed guard duty and operated a federally owned vehicle, used to block refuge entrances.

Gabriel said the victims in the case — federal employees who work at the refuge — “continue to suffer because of the occupation” and the actions of Stanek and others like him.

Prosecutors also revealed their highest sentencing recommendation in the case would be a 41-month federal prison sentence for Ryan Payne.

Payne is a military veteran from Montana who helped lead the occupation. Videos show Payne leading occupiers in shooting practice at the refuge.