An Occupation In Eastern Oregon

Judge Releases Occupier Ken Medenbach But Again Detains David Fry

By Conrad Wilson (OPB)
July 13, 2016 9:30 p.m.
David Fry

David Fry

Courtesy of the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office

In back-to-back detention hearings Wednesday that involved defendants charged in the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Jones released Ken Medenbach from custody. But Jones ruled defendant David Fry will remain in jail until his trial in September.


Jones ordered that Medenbach will be confined to Crescent and La Pine in central Oregon and monitored electronically. Prosecutors objected to Medenbach’s release.

Fry’s detention hearing was his third. His attorney, Per Olson, spent much of it defending Fry’s mental health while trying to counter prosecutors’ allegations that Fry was volatile and unpredictable, even though the hearing ended with an outburst by Fry that seemed to fit the very descriptions and concerns laid out by prosecutors.

“Mr. Fry is a good risk for release (for the court to take),” Olson said earlier in the hearing, noting that Jones had previously released defendants who made more violent claims against law enforcement.

Olson also noted that U.S. District Court Judge Anna Brown, the trial judge in the case, dismissed the charge that claimed Fry, and others, carried weapons to commit a crime of violence.

Related: Judge Denies Pretrial Release For 'Vulnerable' David Fry

Fry “made statements more on the lines of suicide by cop,” Olson said. Fry was the final occupier to leave the refuge and live-streamed a series of audio and video messages in the final days of the occupation.

Olson explained that Fry was at the refuge when he learned about Arizona rancher LaVoy Finicum’s death. Fry and others who were still at the refuge were told Finicum was shot by the FBI while on his knees with his hands up.

Olson said Fry was concerned that could happen to him.

In fact, Finicum was shot by Oregon State Police after fleeing a traffic stop in January.

Olson also explained that Fry’s mental health concerns had been taken out of context.

He said “four or five years ago” Fry had escaped a mental health facility in Ohio after being wrongly diagnosed with schizophrenia. Olson said Fry escaped from the facility because he was told he would have to take psychotropic drugs, which Fry refused.

Shortly after breaking out, Olson said Fry was apprehended and taken to another mental health facility where he was not required to take medication.

Related: An Occupation In Eastern Oregon


“He’s stable; he’s emotionally stable,” Olson said.

But prosecutors argued that Fry was both a flight risk and a danger to the community.

“This defendant is simply too volatile and unpredictable,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Ethan Knight told Jones.

“He may have a reason for doing that,” Knight said referring to Fry’s escape, “but he didn’t follow directions.”

In Olson’s rebuttal, he told the judge that Fry is his easiest client right now.

“This idea that he’s unpredictable in all aspects of life is simply not the case,” Olson said.

Fry also spoke during the proceedings. He defended his actions at the mental health facility, and said he wanted to be released from custody in Oregon.

“I’d like to go see my pets. One of my dogs is reaching his age,” Fry told Jones, promising to return for trial in September. “I give you my word that I will be here to see this through."

Fry was on parole in Ohio before joining the occupation at the refuge. Jones said he was concerned that Fry violated his parole by leaving Ohio and traveling to Oregon.

Jones also said he was puzzled by statements Fry made about wanting to die and be reincarnated as a woman, as well as Fry’s concerns about an invasion from outer space.

Related: Judge Detains Refuge Occupier David Fry, Releases Wampler

Fry responded to Jones directly, saying that he was making accusations, clarifying that it would be “easier” if he were to be reincarnated as a woman. Fry also said he’s not alone in his concern about alien visits to planet Earth, and that it is his First Amendment to believe it.

Fry also denied he had violated his parole, noting that he called his parole officer before leaving Ohio.

Despite Fry’s passionate arguments, Jones once again denied his release.

“I look at the whole picture,” Jones said. “You find a reason to do what you want to do as opposed to what the court orders.”

Fry, who was visibly upset, stood up.

“Then we’re done,” he said.

Fry then pointed at Jones and shouted, “You’re a bigot, and a liar, and a racist,” as he walked out of the courtroom.