Jeff Banta

Jeff Banta

Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office

A federal magistrate judge has ordered that a former occupier of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge be released from jail.

Jeff Banta, 46, of Elko, Nevada, will be released from jail on Monday. He was one of the last four remaining at the refuge when the occupation ended Feb. 11.

Banta is the second of the final four occupiers to be released, with Idaho resident Sandy Anderson also gaining release earlier this month.

Federal prosecutor Ethan Knight requested Friday that Banta continue to be held in jail until his case goes to trial. Federal Magistrate Judge Stacie Beckerman asked Knight if Banta had a criminal history or if he had made any direct threats to law enforcement – Knight said the militant had not.  

Defense attorney Robert Salisbury said Banta arrived at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Jan. 25, just a day before eight occupiers were arrested and one was killed. Salisbury also indicated that it was Banta’s idea to contact evangelist Franklin Graham, who talked to the militants in the final hours of the 41-day occupation.  

Per the conditions of Banta’s release, Judge Beckerman ordered him to avoid his co-defendants and he isn’t permitted to make statements in support of illegal behavior.  

“If you violate any of these conditions, you’ll be right back here in this courtroom,” Beckerman told Banta.  

Banta thanked the judge for releasing him. He’s the fourth armed occupier that has been released. The others are Anderson, Duane Ehmer and Shawnna Cox.