An Occupation In Eastern Oregon

Prosecution In Oregon Standoff Trial Turns Its Case To Guns

By Bryan M. Vance (OPB) and Conrad Wilson (OPB)
Portland, Oregon Sept. 26, 2016 12:30 p.m.

The prosecution is starting to wrap up its case as the trial of seven occupiers of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge enters its third week. They estimate they will rest their case at the end of the day Tuesday.

The first two weeks have been eventful, as its been revealed that an informant tipped off law enforcement on the day several occupation leaders were taken into custody and another was killed. The jury also heard testimony that detailed threats against Harney County Sheriff David Ward in the lead up to the occupation. As the trial enters its third week, here's what we can expect:


Prosecution Prepares To Wrap Its Case:

Related: Faces Of The Malheur Refuge Occupation Trial

The prosecution has moved swiftly through its case as it has presented evidence that the occupiers conspired to prevent federal employees from doing their work through the use of intimidation, threats or force.

Testimony from Harney County Sheriff David Ward shed light on the lead-up to the occupation. Malheur refuge manager Chad Karges and several other refuge employees testified as to how the occupation prevented them from doing their jobs. FBI agents have testified about the actions of occupiers during the 41-day takeover, as well as tense negotiations in the final days. Testimony from Harney County Rancher Andy Dunbar, whose land borders the refuge, offered key testimony about what was heard and seen on the refuge during the occupation.

During the final days of the prosecution's presentation, the jury will start seeing a lot of the evidence collected by the FBI after the occupation ended in February. The FBI seized dozens of guns from the refuge, and the prosecution is expected to present some of them in court. Though it is unclear just how many of weapons will actually be presented.

Related: 'This Land Is Our Land': The Movement Bigger Than The Bundys

During testimony last week

from refuge employee Linda Beck, the jury also saw photos of hundreds of spent ammunition casings near the boat launch at Malheur Lake. This week, the prosecution is expected to present the jury with video taken from fellow occupier Jason Blomgren's Facebook page of several occupiers firing guns near the boat launch. In this video, the occupiers appear to be lined up in an organized manner engaging in a form of target practice. We're expected to learn more about the evidence the video provides as the prosecution concludes its case this week.


Blomgren was originally scheduled to testify for the prosecution during this trial, but it now seems as though those plans have changed.

The Defense's Turn:

The defense is expected to begin making its cases as early as Wednesday morning. This is the part of the trial with the most variables as there are seven different defendants, each with different approaches to their case. Three occupiers are representing themselves, some have court-appointed public defenders, and then in the case of Ammon Bundy, a pair of experienced private defense attorneys.

We do not know what each defense team has planned, but based on opening statements it very much appears the attorneys will try to convince the jury that their clients' actions were protected under First and Second Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. Many on the defense have framed the occupation as peaceful political protest of government overreach.

It will be also interesting to see which defendants, if any, take the stand to testify in their own defense. Occupation leader Ammon Bundy testified in pre-trial hearings in July, Ammon Bundy took the stand and acknowledged taking over the refuge. In that testimony, Bundy tried to downplay his role in the takeover. "It was more of a combined effort,", he said when prosecutors described him as the occupation's leader.

Prosecutors had intended to introduce that testimony as evidence in this trial, but later decided not to. They now say they will only enter it as evidence upon cross examination if Ammon Bundy takes the stand during the trial.

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