In an unforeseen verdict delivered in a high-profile case in federal court Thursday, Ammon Bundy and six co-defendants were acquitted of conspiracy for their role in the armed takeover of Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in January.
Following the jailing of two ranchers, Dwight and Steven Hammond, charged with arson on federal lands, Bundy organized the occupation of the Malheur sanctuary in January. After Bundy and his followers took control of the refuge, they demanded the Hammond’s release and return of Bureau of Land Management land to ranchers’ control.
Arrested after a taut standoff on Jan. 26 and Feb. 11, federal prosecutors filed charges against Bundy and 25 others for conspiracy to impede officers through use of force, intimidation or threats in February. Several others were charged on separate weapon charges and theft from federal lands.
Although all seven were found not guilty on the most serious charge of conspiracy and weapon charges, the jury remained deadlocked on one count of property theft against Ryan Bundy.
Immediately following the verdict, Amman Bundy attorney, Marcus Mumford, demanded the release of the accused. Persistent with his demand, Mumford repeated the request and protested, prompting U.S. Marshals to Tase and subdue him.
Defined as a major setback for federal prosecutors, the verdict was greeted with shock and jubilation.
“We’re so grateful to the jurors who weren’t swayed by the nonsense that was going on. God said we weren’t guilty. We weren’t guilty of anything,” said one defendant, Shawna Cox.
“This is a stunning victory for rural America and an extremely humiliating defeat for a corrupt and predatory agency,” said another defendant, Neil Wampler.
Ammon Bundy, 41, his brother Ryan, remain jailed over charges the two face in Nevada.
[Reuters] [Photo courtesy thegrio.com]