U.S. District Court Judge Anna Brown set a Sept. 7 trial date Wednesday for the occupiers of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
Some defense attorneys at the Portland hearing objected to the date, saying they needed more time to prepare their cases. Many went so far as to even ask the judge waive their clients’ right to a speedy trial. That’s a departure from previous stances on the trial date.
Several weeks ago, the attorneys representing the occupiers were urging the court to hold a trial within the 70 days required by speedy trial laws. Still, some lawyers, including those representing occupation leader Ammon Bundy, said they’d like to move ahead as quickly as possible.
Brown stressed to defense attorneys this case is atypical and should be their priority.
“We’re going to move forward,” Brown said.
She briefly addressed jury selection for the case, and noted it would require an unusually large pool.
During the hearing, Brown upheld an order that would send defendants Ammon Bundy, Ryan Bundy, Ryan Payne, Blaine Cooper and Brian Cavalier to Nevada on April 13 to face charges related to a 2014 standoff near Bunkerville, Nevada. So far, those men have yet to appear in that state’s district court.
Oregon refuge occupiers Pete Santilli and Joseph O’Shaughnessy are already detained in Nevada related to those charges.
Wednesday’s hearing also revolved around issues related to evidence in the case. Prosecutors said they plan to have virtually all of the discovery turned over to defense lawyers by May 15.
Defense attorneys have repeatedly said the government isn’t moving fast enough for them to conduct their own investigations.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Geoff Barrow said the government’s policy is to encrypt discovery before putting it on hard drives, which can take 36 hours. Unencrypting the hard drives can also be a lengthy process, slowing down discovery.
So far, Barrow said they’ve released over 48,000 files, or about 100 gigabytes of data, to defense attorneys.
Judge Brown ultimately appointed a committee of defense attorneys and Barrow to review the process and give the court weekly updates to ensure discovery moves ahead.
Ryan Bundy and Kenneth Medenbach, two defendants who are representing themselves in the case, added they’ve faced excessive challenges in mounting their defenses. Bundy said he’s had difficulty accessing discovery, or even pencils and paper to work on his case — let alone leave the jail to interview witnesses because he’s being detained in pretrial custody.
Brown said she understood his concerns, but added additional challenges come with self-defense.
Defense attorneys said they plan to file motions to dismiss several of the charges against Bundy and the others, namely those related to conspiracy to impede federal officers, firearm possession at a federal facility, carry of a firearm in relation to a violent crime, and depredation of government property. Brown said she’d schedule court sessions at a later date to hear those arguments.
The challenges of keeping a case with more than two dozen defendants on track became apparent Wednesday.
At one point, occupiers Jason Patrick was almost kicked out of the courtroom.
As Brown was discussing the issue of a trial date with attorneys, Patrick continued to speak over the conversation. When Brown asked him to be quiet, the occupier struck a defiant tone.
“Will there be any more violent outbursts by the judge?” Patrick asked.