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Ammon Bundy Returns To Oregon To Testify In Refuge Trial

After five full days of testimony, federal prosecutors in the second Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation trial rested their case-in-chief Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Portland.

“At this point, the government rests,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Geoff Barrow said after a final FBI agent testified.

The defense immediately motioned for U.S. District Court Judge Anna Brown to acquit the four on trial. The motion is a common request.

Brown denied it and said, based on the evidence, a reasonable juror could conclude there is enough evidence in the government case to support the charges.

Duane Ehmer, Jake Ryan, Darryl Thorn and Jason Patrick have been charged with conspiracy to prevent federal employees who work at the Malheur refuge in eastern Oregon from doing their jobs through force, threats and intimidation. Some have been charged with other felonies, including property damage and carrying a firearm in a federal facility. The defendants are also facing misdemeanor charges, like trespassing.

After the morning recess, the defense began its case, calling occupation leader Ammon Bundy as its first witness.

Bundy walked into the courtroom wearing blue jail scrubs, his ankles bound by chains that clinked as he walked. He was escorted by a U.S. marshal to the witness stand.

Some in the public gallery stood when Bundy walked into the courtroom.

“You need to be seated,” Brown said.

“Be seated or leave,” she added when some hesitated.

Absent from Bundy’s breast pocket was his pocket constitution — something that was part of his daily uniform during the first trial of refuge occupiers.

Patrick’s standby attorney, Andrew Kohlmetz, was the first to ask Bundy questions.

The first 45 minutes before lunch were very similar to Bundy’s testimony during his own trial last fall, when he and six others were acquitted of the same conspiracy charges the government is pursuing in this second trial.

Bundy talked about how he viewed the takeover as a protest against federal overreach and land policy.

Brown reiterated Bundy was not to mention his acquittal during his testimony.

Before federal prosecutors wrapped their case Tuesday, they called one more witness to the stand.

The government’s final witness, FBI special agent Ronnie Walker, testified about trenches dug at the refuge Jan. 27.

The government showed video that depicts Sean Anderson, one of the refuge occupiers who pleaded guilty to a trespassing misdemeanor, shooting toward what Walker said was a manned FBI airplane.

“Eyes in the skies,” Anderson's wife, Sandy Anderson, said in the video. She also pleaded to a trespassing charge in the case.

Walker said the series of videos show Ryan and Ehmer digging the two trenches at the refuge, one of which was more than 100 feet long and 28 feet wide.

Walker also testified about a pair of so-called Navy SEALs, who loomed large during the first trial. The defense hinted during the first trial that the SEALs were FBI informants who caused damage around Jan. 26-27.

Walker said during his testimony that the pair were not government informants. Rather, the men identified as John Bright and Danny Williams, were allowed to leave the refuge on the afternoon of Jan. 27 through the FBI’s western checkpoint, leading out of the refuge.

<p>A law enforcement checkpoint outside the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Oregon.</p>

Bradley W. Parks


A law enforcement checkpoint outside the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Oregon.

Copyright 2017 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Conrad Wilson is a reporter and producer covering criminal justice and legal affairs for OPB.