© 2022 | Jefferson Public Radio
Southern Oregon University
1250 Siskiyou Blvd.
Ashland, OR 97520
541.552.6301 | 800.782.6191
KSOR Header background image 1
a service of Southern Oregon University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

3 Takeaways From The Oregon Refuge Occupiers' Acquittal

A woman named Maureen Valdez ran out the doors of the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse in downtown Portland on Thursday and shouted, "Not guilty!" to a soon-to-be-large crowd of demonstrators and media.

She was announcing the verdict for brothers Ammon and Ryan Bundy and five others acquitted after facing trial for the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon in early 2016. Supporters embraced one another outside the courthouse. Many cried.

The verdict also unearthed new questions about the seven occupiers still awaiting trial, the so-called patriot movement, the Bunkerville case in Nevada, and racial equity. OPB's "This Land Is Our Land" podcast further explained the jury's decision.

Here are three things we learned from Thursday's verdict.

Despite the verdict and an animated protest from defense attorney Marcus Mumford, Ammon and Ryan Bundy will remain in federal custody for now as they await trial for their roles in the 2014 standoff in Bunkerville, Nevada.

Six defendants originally charged in the Malheur case, including the Bundy brothers, face charges in Nevada.

The verdict in Oregon will certainly color the conversation around the Nevada trial. The Bundys' father, Cliven Bundy, led the 2014 standoff with federal agents in Nevada. The elder Bundy flew to Portland around the time his sons were arrested in Oregon and was almost immediately taken into custody himself.

Pete Santilli, a conservative internet radio host from Cincinnati, also faces charges in Nevada. Prosecutors dropped charges against Santilli stemming from his role in the Oregon occupation.

Thursday's verdict is far from the last we've heard of what came to be known as the Oregon Standoff. Seven people, including husband and wife Sean and Sandy Anderson — two of the last four to leave the refuge — still face trial in February.

It is unclear if the not guilty verdict returned Thursday will have any impact on the trial yet to come.

It is also uncertain how this will affect Ryan Payne, an occupation leader who wants to retract his guilty plea. The federal government has until Monday to file a response to Payne's request, at which point the judge will rule if he can withdraw it and go to trial in February.

Shawna Cox, one of the defendants acquitted Thursday, said the so-called patriot movement highlighted in the Oregon occupation will continue. Cox said she expects more protests like the one at the refuge.

"Absolutely," she said when asked if she will participate in future protests. "We can do it peacefully."

OPB's "This Land Is Our Land" podcast examined the patriot movement — a loosely-connected network of organizations that are united in the belief the federal government has overstepped its authority. Throughout the trial, defendants painted the jury's decision as a check on the federal government.

"The people have to insist that the government is not our master," Ryan Bundy said in his closing argument. "They are our servants."

<p>A supporter displays a "NOT GUILTY!" button following the not guilty verdict delivered in the trial of seven occupiers of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.</p>

Bradley W. Parks

/
/

A supporter displays a "NOT GUILTY!" button following the not guilty verdict delivered in the trial of seven occupiers of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

<p>Maureen Valdez, left, from Beaverton and Dory Borck from Portland, both supporters of the occupation, embrace following the deliverance of a not guilty verdict for all defendants in the occuption of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.</p>

Bradley W. Parks

/
/

Maureen Valdez, left, from Beaverton and Dory Borck from Portland, both supporters of the occupation, embrace following the deliverance of a not guilty verdict for all defendants in the occuption of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

<p>Defendant Neil Wampler hugs supporter Dory Borck. "Oh, just wonderful," Wampler said when asked how he felt about the verdict.</p>

Bradley W. Parks

/
/

Defendant Neil Wampler hugs supporter Dory Borck. "Oh, just wonderful," Wampler said when asked how he felt about the verdict.

<p>Supporters chant the names and verdicts of all seven defendants in the trial of occupiers of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.</p>

Bradley W. Parks

/
/

Supporters chant the names and verdicts of all seven defendants in the trial of occupiers of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

<p>Occupation supporter Brand Nu Thornton, left, raises his shofar and hugs fellow supporter John Lamb after seven occupiers of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon were found not guilty.</p>

Bradley W. Parks

/
/

Occupation supporter Brand Nu Thornton, left, raises his shofar and hugs fellow supporter John Lamb after seven occupiers of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon were found not guilty.

<p>Defense attorney Morgan Philpot answers questions following the delivery of not guilty verdicts.</p>

Bradley W. Parks

/
/

Defense attorney Morgan Philpot answers questions following the delivery of not guilty verdicts.

<p>Defendant Shawna Cox answers questions following the not guilty verdict delivered in the trial of her and six other occupiers of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.</p>

Bradley W. Parks

/
/

Defendant Shawna Cox answers questions following the not guilty verdict delivered in the trial of her and six other occupiers of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

<p>Occupation supporter Rick Koerber speaks to media outside the federal courthouse in Portland.</p>

Bradley W. Parks

/
/

Occupation supporter Rick Koerber speaks to media outside the federal courthouse in Portland.

<p>Occupation supporters (and a horse named Lady Liberty) marched around the block outside the federal courthouse in Portland following the verdict.</p>

Bradley W. Parks

/
/

Occupation supporters (and a horse named Lady Liberty) marched around the block outside the federal courthouse in Portland following the verdict.

<p>Defendant Jeff Banta gives an interview following the verdict. Banta and six others were all found not guilty of conspiracy.</p>

Bradley W. Parks

/
/

Defendant Jeff Banta gives an interview following the verdict. Banta and six others were all found not guilty of conspiracy.

<p>Tiffany Harris, attorney for Shawna Cox, speaks to media following the verdict.</p>

Bradley W. Parks

/
/

Tiffany Harris, attorney for Shawna Cox, speaks to media following the verdict.

<p>Brand Nu Thornton blows the shofar outside the federal courthouse in Portland following the verdict.</p>

Bradley W. Parks

/
/

Brand Nu Thornton blows the shofar outside the federal courthouse in Portland following the verdict.

<p>Defense attorney Matt Schindler answers questions following the delivery of the verdict outside the federal courthouse in Portland.</p>

Bradley W. Parks

/
/

Defense attorney Matt Schindler answers questions following the delivery of the verdict outside the federal courthouse in Portland.

<p>Occupation supporter Maureen Valdez speaks to media holding a pocket Constitution following the deliverance of a not guilty verdict for seven defendants in the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.</p>

Bradley W. Parks

/
/

Occupation supporter Maureen Valdez speaks to media holding a pocket Constitution following the deliverance of a not guilty verdict for seven defendants in the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

<p>An occupation supporter shouts "Free the Hammonds" outside the federal courthouse in Portland. The 41-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge was partly driven by the resentencing of Harney County ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond.</p>

Bradley W. Parks

/
/

An occupation supporter shouts "Free the Hammonds" outside the federal courthouse in Portland. The 41-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge was partly driven by the resentencing of Harney County ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond.

<p>Defendant Shawna Cox answers questions following the not guilty verdict delivered in the trial of her and six other occupiers of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.</p>

Bradley W. Parks

/
/

Defendant Shawna Cox answers questions following the not guilty verdict delivered in the trial of her and six other occupiers of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

Copyright 2016 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Bradley W. Parks, John Rosman