The attorney for the leader of the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge faces a trial in April on two misdemeanor charges . They stem from a dramatic incident that played out as a jury acquitted his client, Ammon Bundy, and six others.
Lawyer Marcus Mumford was tased by U.S. Marshals in a federal courtroom on Oct. 27, in the moments after the jury deemed the seven refuge occupiers and leaders on trial were not guilty of conspiracy charges related to the January 2016 refuge takeover.
Mumford had been arguing that Ammon Bundy should be released from custody following his acquittal, but US District Court Judge Anna Brown said he had to stay in custody because he’s awaiting trial in Nevada on more serious federal charges.
On Friday, Mumford appeared on the same ninth floor of the U.S. District Courthouse in downtown Portland, only this time as a defendant. He sat next to his attorney, Michael Levine, just feet from where he was tased.
“I can’t recall an incident where a defense attorney in the midst of an argument on behalf of his client is tackled and tased, twice surrounded by the force of the state,” Levine said to reporters after Friday’s hearing. “If this is what America is coming to, ladies and gentleman, we are in deep trouble.”
Mumford did not make any statements during the routine court proceedings and afterward directed questions to his attorney.
Mumford has been charged with failing to comply with the lawful direction of a federal police officers and impeding the performance of official duties. Both are Class C misdemeanors and carry 30-day sentence and a $5,000 fine with the option of probation.
On Friday, Mumford pleaded not guilty to the charges.
While the hearing took place in the U.S. District of Oregon, it was overseen by Judge John C. Coughenour from the Western District of Washington. The case is being prosecuted by the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Washington.
The three-day trial is set to begin April 17.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim Ohms said it’s possible the government may go to trial under different charges.
Lisa Hay, the federal public defender for the district of Oregon, attended Mumford’s hearing Friday. She said she was disappointed to hear federal prosecutors suggest they might seek more serious charges.
“A defense attorney presenting an argument to the court should not face criminal charges for vigorous advocacy unless he or she has been held in contempt by the judge,” Hay wrote in an email.
Mumford’s attorney, Levine, said Brown and U.S. Marshals overreacted.
“My client was doing nothing that zealous advocate would not do,” he said. “What we have here is an unprecedented attack on the defense bar, I truly believe unprecedented, and I’ve been practicing law for almost 40 years.”
The hearing was attended by several defense attorneys who worked with Mumford during last fall’s trial.