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Judge Revokes Malheur Occupier's Pretrial Release


U.S. District Court Judge Anna Brown revoked former Malheur Refuge occupier Darryl Thorn’s pretrial release Wednesday, after Thorn threatened on Aug. 6 to hang himself on Facebook Live. Prosecutors said Thorn also threatened to seek suicide by police officer.

“I don’t think this record allows me to let you go out those doors until you’ve had a mental health evaluation,” Brown said.

In March, jurors found Thorn guilty of two felonies: conspiracy and carrying a firearm in a federal facility. He’s scheduled to be sentenced in November.

Thorn was part of the second trial stemming from last year’s 41-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in a remote part of eastern Oregon’s high desert. The armed protest began Jan. 2, 2016, and ended when the final four occupiers surrendered to the FBI on Feb. 11 during a dramatic conclusion that spanned several hours.

Prosecutors said Thorn’s girlfriend called police on Aug. 6 to report that Thorn was texting her nonstop and that she was “terrified.”

Thorn’s girlfriend, who was in Salem at the time, told dispatchers she received a text from Thorn that read, “I want you and the Tahoe home f—-ing now,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Gabriel said in court. During a second call, Thorn told his girlfriend that “death by cop will look good in the history books,” Gabriel said.

Thorn’s girlfriend told emergency dispatchers that Thorn was upset about LaVoy Finicum’s death. Finicum, an Arizona rancher and spokesman for the occupation, was shot and killed by Oregon State Police after he evaded a traffic stop on Jan. 26, 2016.

As recently as Aug. 12, police had contact with Thorn, after his girlfriend’s sister called police out of concern, Gabriel said in court.

Apart from those incidents, Gabriel said Thorn had violated the terms of his release by living at a motel in Monument, Oregon, not the RV park which his pretrial service officer had approved. Gabriel said Thorn had also not made good on his employment commitments.

Thorn’s attorney, Jay Nelson, argued his client shouldn’t be taken into custody, but rather sent to a halfway house. He said Thorn rented a motel room for the air-conditioning, but wasn’t sleeping there.

Nelson said Thorn has been compliant during his 15 months of pretrial release and stressed that these recent incidents were not indicative of his overall character.

“I urge the court to not take a man who’s found himself at a difficult crossroads in his life and lock him away,” Nelson said.

He said Thorn was living in Monument doing odd jobs and had become isolated and lonely. Nelson said Thorn’s girlfriend had left because she got a job in road construction and was traveling around the state.

Just before Wednesday’s hearing began, supporters passed Thorn a worry stone for him to hold during the proceedings. He wore jeans, a flannel shirt and had a camouflage ball cap.

“Your honor, I apologize for my actions, I sincerely do,” Thorn told Brown on Wednesday. He said “life happens” and he was never intending to harm anyone. Thorn asked Brown for another chance.

“I can guarantee I won’t disappoint you,” Thorn said.

Brown responded that she was concerned about whether he might be a harm to the community, especially after his comments about suicide.

“This is not personal,” Brown said. “It’s not about disappointing me.”

In March, Brown found Thorn guilty of two misdemeanors: trespassing and tampering with vehicles and equipment. She found him not guilty of a third misdemeanor.

Brown scheduled another hearing for Aug. 22 to discuss the outcome of Thorn’s mental heath evaluation.

At the end of Wednesday’s hearing, Thorn stood and placed his hands behind his back. U.S. Marshals cuffed him.

Before turning to walk out of the room, Thorn turned to his girlfriend, who stood in the front row of courtroom 14A.

“It’s OK,” Thorn said. “I’m glad you did that. Thank you.”

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