The defense appears headed toward the end of its witness list in the trial for seven occupiers of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
The defense's case has been characterized by disorganization at times. Heading into Tuesday, defense attorneys were unsure when their remaining witnesses would take the stand — or if they would at all.
Jurors heard from witnesses testifying to a wide range of issues, from David Fry’s mental health to Harney County Sheriff David Ward’s talk with his cousin.
Medenbach's Moment On The Stand
Defendant Kenneth Medenbach took the stand Tuesday to explain his reason for participating in the occupation. The Creston, Oregon, man talked about his long history of protesting land management laws — and how the occupation was a continuation of that.
In reference to his past protests, Medenbach said he built small cabins, placed them on government-owned land, then notified the appropriate agency that he did it. Medenbach also said the Bundys “were heroes to me” following the Bunkerville standoff in 2014.
“It didn’t bother me to be arrested because I’m where I want to be right now,” Medenbach said. “Like the Bundys, I’ve been called by a higher power … we all know this is what God called us to do.”
Medenbach said he’s “been waiting for 21 years to get where I am right now,” on the stand, expressing his views. He spoke about the Constitution and disputed whether the federal government has the right to own land.
FBI Informant Explains Occupiers’ Roles
A San Diego, California woman named Terri Linnell said she served as an FBI informant during the occupation. She testified for the defense that she was recruited by the agency to visit the refuge and was in Harney County from Jan. 12-23.
Linnell said she never witnessed any illegal activity during her time at the refuge, and that drugs and alcohol were not allowed. Evidentiary photos released by investigators show bottles of alcohol recovered from the refuge. Linnell also testified she never witnessed defendants David Fry, Shawna Cox or Neil Wampler in possession of firearms.
Linnell, who worked as a cook while at the refuge, described Cox’s role as more of an administrative assistant to the occupation leadership than active participant.
“I wouldn’t call her one of the leaders,” Linnell said.
During cross-examination, Assistant U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Barrow asked Linnell about a Jan. 14 report in which she apparently told the FBI there was talk among the occupiers of taking over another federal building in Burns, Oregon. Linnell testified she reviewed the reports she filed with the FBI but had no recollection of the report Barrow mentioned.
Barrow also asked about a Jan. 19 report in which Linnell described discomfort in learning there were children at the refuge. In that report, she also said people involved in the sovereign citizen movement were at the refuge, which caused concern.
Ryan Bundy Questions His Wife
Jurors witnessed an unusual courtroom moment Tuesday when defendant Ryan Bundy, who is representing himself, questioned his wife, Angie Bundy.
“Missing you,” she said in response to his opening line of questioning. She described Ryan Bundy as a wonderful husband and father.
“I could cite things all day long that he does for other people,” she testified.
Angie Bundy said her husband left their home in Nevada for Harney County without a coat or warm clothes.
“You told me you’d be home Monday at the latest,” she told him.
‘They Could’ve Been Close Friends’
Harney County Sheriff David Ward’s cousin Rodney Cooper took the stand Tuesday. Cooper lives near Eugene and said he met with Ward on Jan. 18, nearly three weeks into the occupation.
“[Ward] said he agreed with 90 percent of what [occupiers] were doing and if it were under different circumstances, they could’ve been close friends,” Cooper said.
Ward has given little indication to his opinions on some of the occupiers’ underlying causes like land management. Cooper’s testimony appeared to shine a small bit of light on that.
Ward made clear throughout the occupation he wanted the occupiers to leave.
Fry’s Mental Health
Jurors also heard Michelle Guyton, a clinical psychologist who testified about defendant David Fry’s mental health issues.
Fry was the last occupier to surrender, and thousands of people listened to his emotionally charged standoff with federal agents.
Guyton testified she has diagnosed Fry with schizotypal personality disorder. She said the condition is typified by erratic behavior, difficulty forming long-term friendships and an overall feeling of anxiety and lack of trust.
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