UPDATE (5:38 p.m.) U.S. District Court Judge Anna Brown has approved federal prosecutors’ request to dismiss charges against Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupier Peter Santilli.
Federal prosecutors filed a motion seeking to dismiss the charges against Santilli Tuesday afternoon.
“The government has decided that the interests of justice do not support further pursuit of these charges against Santilli,” prosecutors wrote in the motion.
The trial of Santilli and seven other refuge occupiers was set to begin Wednesday with jury selection in downtown Portland. The case will move forward without Santilli.
Santilli is an internet radio host who broadcast live from the wildlife refuge during the occupation.
Santilli’s attorney, Thomas Coan, argued that his client’s presence as a journalist at the wildlife refuge was protected by the First Amendment. He said he’d been pushing for the government to dismiss the charges against Santilli.
“This is something that we’ve been pushing for, for a long time,” said Tom Coan, Pete Santilli’s defense attorney. “I have always believed that Pete never had any criminal intent in what he did out there … He came out here with the intent to report and to document and to lawfully protest.”
Deb Jordan, Santilli’s partner and fellow journalist, said, “Pete didn’t have to make a deal. He didn’t have to turn against the people he stood for. He didn’t have to do any of those things. He stood on principle. And on the principle of the type of journalism that he does. And he stayed steadfast that he was not guilty.”
Santilli still faces several charges in Nevada for a 2014 standoff with the Bureau of Land Management, where he’s accused of conspiring to assault federal officers and brandishing a firearm in relation to a crime of violence.