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Defense Plans Uncertain As Malheur Trial Enters 6th Week


Courtesy Multnomah County Sheriff Office

Defense attorneys for seven people who occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge earlier this year will continue their case Tuesday as the trial enters its sixth week.

However, it’s not entirely clear from attorneys the order in which witnesses will be taking the stand this week — or even whether all the witnesses called by the defense will be able to take the stand at all.

Matt Schindler, defense attorney for accused occupier Kenneth Medenbach, said Monday his client will be taking the stand to explain his actions. Schindler said Medenbach would be ready Tuesday morning, but didn’t know exactly when his client would be testifying.

Last week, occupation leader Ammon Bundy spent three days testifying to his state of mind before and during the Oregon occupation.

Medenbach, Bundy and the other defendants are accused of conspiring to impede federal workers from doing their jobs at the wildlife refuge.

Bundy’s testimony extensively outlined his position that the occupation was a spontaneous political protest rather than a conspiracy against the federal workers. But it also showed a lack of a clear schedule for defense witnesses, as the 10-hour testimony was interrupted several times to allow other witnesses to testify.

Those additional witnesses included Arizona Rep. Michele Fiore and Brandon Rapolla, one of the founding members of the Pacific Patriots Network, who spoke to conditions at the refuge and their role during the occupation.

By the end of Bundy’s testimony, U.S. District Court Judge Anna Brown asked the defense team to organize a list of its remaining witnesses. She said she would no longer allow them to present witnesses who would testify about the condition of the refuge. Through about 10 previous witnesses, she said, the defense had established its point that the refuge was clean and peaceful.

“You’re going to lose them,” Brown said of the jury to the defense. “What we did with Mr. Bundy took too long.”

Defense lawyer Per C. Olsen has also said he plans to call a mental health expert who has diagnosed his client, occupier David Fry, with schizotypal personality disorder, a mental health illness associated with eccentric behavior and difficulty forming relationships.

Once the defense rests its case, the prosecution will have the opportunity to put on a rebuttal. In court they’ve said they may put on evidence related to the 2014 standoff near Bunkerville, Nevada that involved some of the Oregon occupiers and rancher Cliven Bundy.

Bunkerville was not part of the government’s original case in Oregon. Despite a warning from the judge, Bundy’s defense attorney, Marcus Mumford, argued Bunkerville was central to his client’s defense and must be part of this trial. During Bundy’s testimony, Mumford had Bundy speak about that incident during a presentation that included multiple videos.

That testimony opened the door for the potential rebuttal from prosecutors.

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