Jury Finds Oregon Man Guilty Of Taking Over Federal Lands
A federal jury has convicted Kenneth Medenbach for his role in taking over Bureau of Land Management property last year in southern Oregon.
The 63-year-old Crescent, Oregon, resident represented himself in the case. He was found guilty in a Eugene court Monday of unlawful occupation and illegal camping on federal lands.
Medenbach traveled to Josephine County after a group of armed activists from the Oath Keepers and other groups gathered at the Sugar Pine Mine in southern Oregon. Constitutional rights groups converged on the small gold mine in May 2015 after the owner issued a call for help because of alleged overreach by the BLM.
The mine owners later reached an agreement with the BLM related to mining rights, and the protesters left.
During the Sugar Pine Mine protests, Medenbach had built a small cabin along a BLM road. Federal officials said they asked Medenbach to take down the structure several times, but he repeatedly refused.
In court, Medenbach claimed that the federal government does not have a constitutional right to possess land in Oregon. He also argued he was a “political prisoner” and that federal courts don’t have any authority to interpret the Constitution. U.S. District Judge Michael McShane rejected those claims.
Medenbach faces up to a year in prison and a $1,000 fine for the Sugar Pine Mine incident. He’ll be sentenced August 1.
He’s also awaiting trial for his role in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation.
Medenbach was the first person to be arrested and charged for his role in the occupation, when he drove a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service truck to a grocery store in Burns, Oregon. He faces charges of impeding federal officers and theft of government property in that case.
Copyright 2016 Oregon Public Broadcasting