A federal judge presiding in Eugene is expected to decide Friday whether to grant Michael Emry release from jail ahead of trial for his role in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation.
Emry, 54, is facing a federal weapons charge for having a .50-caliber M2 machine gun that isn’t registered to him and for obliterating the serial number. He admitted to stealing the gun from his former employer in Idaho.
A cooperating witness in the government's case against Emry says the self-styled journalist wanted to get the machine gun to supporters of Ammon Bundy at the refuge.
This is the second time Emry’s attorney, Mark Sabitt, has argued for his client’s release.
Sabitt has argued in a previous motion that Emry has established consistent employment as a welder in Crescent, Oregon, and isn’t a threat to the community. Federal prosecutors have expressed concern that Emry came to Oregon from Idaho with his wife and they’ve been living a somewhat roving lifestyle in a fifth-wheel trailer.
Based on statements made by Emry while speaking on a jail phone, prosecutors say he may pose a threat to a cooperating witness located in Grant County if he were release from jail.
In new documents filed Thursday, prosecutors describe the crimes Emry is alleged to have committed as the “most serious and dangerous” of all federal gun possession crimes. Emry has described the gun as being capable of firing 550-650 rounds per minute, which prosecutors say could be devastating in the hands of the wrong person.
Emry traveled to Oregon just prior to the beginning of the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. He told law enforcement that he arrived in late December 2015 in a van loaned to him by Ammon Bundy, one of the occupation leaders.
Bundy and fellow occupation leader Ryan Payne had also traveled to Harney County at that time to rally support from local residents.
After arriving in Burns, Emry said he stayed in a house with Bundy, Payne and others, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Nathan Lichvarcik.
During the occupation, Emry operated as a self-described journalist, creating a pro-Bundy blog called “The Voice of Grant County.” Emry hasn’t been charged with any offenses specifically related to occupying the wildlife refuge, despite his regular presence in Oregon throughout the 41-day occupation.
A Deschutes County sheriff’s deputy working at the tactical operation center in Burns during the occupation told investigators that Emry approached him and indicated there was a .50-caliber belt-fed machine gun at the refuge. Law enforcement viewed this as an attempt to intimidate them, said Lichvarcik in the court filing.
A cooperating witness also told investigators that Emry expressed his desire to bring the stolen $25,000 weapon to the refuge, but was deterred due to the law enforcement presence in the area.
The same witness said Emry had a large arsenal of weapons, access to grenades, and talked about what it would be like if the .50-caliber bullet penetrated the side of a police car and an officer’s Kevlar vest.
A different cooperating witness said Darryl Thorn, an occupier of the refuge who abandoned a guilty plea and dropped his attorney last month, wanted others to help Emry get the rifle to the refuge. Thorn reportedly asked for training on how to use it.
Prosecutors say just prior to Emry's arrest, he was trying to sell the machine gun to someone he believed was a felon and the captain of a Texas militia group. That person was an undercover law enforcement officer, according to the court filing.
Lichvarcik argues that Emry should not be released, pointing to a case from Emry’s past in which he testified that he had made a bomb and a silencer for a drug dealer to kill potential witnesses. Emry also built upwards of 66 machine guns for a friend’s weapons locker in the event of a civil revolt.
“Years ago he was caught, avoided prison, and had a chance to learn his lesson and live a life free of illegal weaponry," wrote Lichvarcik. "He either did not take that lesson to heart or simply does not care – and the fact that he has continued to engage in similar conduct tells the court he may not be trusted to abide by court ordered conditions."
Emry will appear in Eugene federal court at 1:30 p.m. Friday.