Bundy trial: Leader says people needed to take a stand

FILE PHOTO - Ammon Bundy speaks to reporters at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Bundy is the leader of a small, armed group that has been occupying the remote refuge in Oregon since Jan. 2 to protest federal land policies. Burns, Ore., Jan. 14, 2016 | AP Photo by Keith Ridler, St. George News

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The leader of a 41-day standoff at a national wildlife refuge in Oregon testified Wednesday that he orchestrated the takeover to take “a hard stand” against the federal government’s control of public lands and said the occupiers would not be successful unless they carried guns.

Ammon Bundy’s two days of testimony have taken jurors from his family’s high-profile 2014 standoff with federal agents in Nevada to this winter’s occupation of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, revealing the connections between the two. Bundy asserted the Nevada standoff triggered the activism that led him to Oregon.

FILE - In this Jan. 5, 2016, file photo, Ammon Bundy speaks during an interview at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, near Burns, Ore. Bundy the leader of an armed takeover of a national wildlife refuge took the witness stand in his own defense, tearfully telling jurors he was initially reluctant get involved in the plight of an Oregon ranching family, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
FILE – In this Jan. 5, 2016, file photo, Ammon Bundy speaks during an interview at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, near Burns, Ore. Bundy the leader of an armed takeover of a national wildlife refuge took the witness stand in his own defense, tearfully telling jurors he was initially reluctant get involved in the plight of an Oregon ranching family, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

Though U.S. District Judge Anna Brown has tried to keep jurors focused on the criminal charges, the charismatic Bundy has repeatedly tried to use the platform to amplify his message that Western states must win more control over vast federal land holdings.

Bundy, 41, is among seven people accused of conspiring to impede federal workers from doing their jobs at the refuge during the occupation that lasted nearly six weeks.

Four of the seven, including Bundy, are also charged with possessing a gun in a federal facility. If convicted, they face years in prison.

Bundy said he did not conspire with anyone in the weeks prior to the Jan. 2 occupation. That morning, he met a group at a restaurant 30 miles from the refuge and suggested they take it over during a rally supporting two ranchers set to return to prison for arson.

I proposed to them that we go into the refuge, and we basically take possession of it, and we give these lands back to the people,” Bundy said.

He said he wasn’t armed on the refuge but acknowledged telling others to carry guns. Otherwise, the occupation had no chance of success, he said.

“Without the guns, they would have come out in a paddy wagon and put us in zip-tie handcuffs,” Bundy said of authorities. “We would never have been able to tell people why we were there.”

Bundy testified that interfering with federal workers was never a consideration. He wanted to generate media coverage of the treatment of Dwight and Steven Hammond, father-and-son ranchers convicted of setting fire to public land, and his belief that the U.S. Constitution gives the federal government very limited right to own land within a state.

“This issue is the issue,” Bundy told the judge when she tried to limit his testimony about the Constitution. “This is why we went onto the refuge and did what we did.”

Bundy maintains he tried legally to keep the Hammonds out of prison before deciding he had no choice but to take what he repeatedly called a “hard stand.”

Ryan Bundy (back cowboy hat, tan shirt) recapping events related to the BLM-Bundy Ranch standoff over impounded cattle, Bunkerville, Nev., April 2014 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News
Ryan Bundy (back cowboy hat, tan shirt) recapping events related to the BLM-Bundy Ranch standoff over impounded cattle, Bunkerville, Nev., April 2014 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Prosecutors contend the conspiracy began two months before the occupation, when Bundy met an Oregon sheriff on Nov. 5 to discuss the plight of the Hammonds. Bundy said that was not true.

He testified that a police official helped ease tensions during a 2014 standoff with federal agents at his father, Cliven Bundy’s Nevada ranch. The federal agents tried to round up the elder Bundy’s cattle but backed off as they faced a large armed group.

A video played for jurors showed the police official appearing to broker the deal that allowed Cliven Bundy’s cattle to go free.

Ammon Bundy said that official protected his family, and he figured Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward in Oregon would do the same for the Hammonds. But he said the discussion with Ward got no results, and neither did his efforts to contact elected officials.

Bundy also discussed how his religious faith played a role in his decision to help the ranchers. The judge, however, stopped him from reading Scripture on the stand.

After the jury left for its lunch break, Bundy co-defendant Neil Wampler stood to applaud, saying, “We all love you Ammon. Thank you so much for what you’re doing.”

Bundy will take the stand again Thursday.

Written by STEVEN DUBOIS, Associated Press

Email: news@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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13 Comments

  • Roy J October 5, 2016 at 11:00 pm

    This will be more interesting once his cross examination is finished, the judge has had about enough swerving off topic.

  • debbie October 6, 2016 at 12:30 am

    The ranchers intent/motive here seems to be feeding America as cheaply as it can. if you think about it if they just did what BLM wanted the supply and demand would be off with the beef they would have less work and get the same amount of money. that’s how supply and demand works. when BLM takes land away from Ranchers Americans pay the price. and now Americans are paying the price for their in prison the court costs the prosecutor cost everything. because a couple people at BLM seem to think they’re more right then the Ranchers. I’m not condoning what the ranchers did comma but I keep thinking the media is so messed up right now I don’t think the media would listen to them I think they would have gotten ignored. this does seem to be a very Rowdy group of people. they have a cause they truly believe in they’re not making this stuff up. and that’s what’s important here. We got rioters and thugs burning down businesses burning police cars and masses and they’re not getting the treatment these ranchers are getting. I don’t know it’s all so confusing

    • Bob October 6, 2016 at 10:36 am

      well, they should have chosen a cause they’d get public support for. They invaded a bird preserve with a bunch of paramilitary gear. I and a lot of others like bird preserves. I’m gonna side with the bird preserve over a bunch of idiot rednecks all day. And what happened to all that cash they owe in grazing fees in NV? Why are these idiots better than every other rancher that they don’t have to pay grazing fees. The chickens finally came home to roost for that redneck circus…

    • Chris October 6, 2016 at 7:40 pm

      Not one of the refuge occupiers were real ranchers.

    • tcrider October 6, 2016 at 8:32 pm

      debbie,
      take your cows and go away, the american heart association sez red meat is bad, so you must be bad also,
      bla bla bla, you and your self proclaimed patriots need to get a clue, nobody wants anything to do with any of you.
      You couldn’t even get trump onboard with your worthless cause, now thats what I call hitting the bottom of the barrel.

      • .... October 7, 2016 at 10:22 am

        Hey let’s grab one of them cows and have a BBQ..LOL !

  • bigjohn6t9 October 6, 2016 at 9:36 am

    its not illegal to have guns on the any refuge its only illegal to take them inside an office building that is posted no guns allowed. I know because I worked on a national refuge at mattaMesquite in North Carolina last winter. Actually the refuse does training and Hunter safety on this property. I believe they do also on property in Oregon they also have Waterfowl on refuge land. So why is it charging these men entering onto the property with guns its only illegal a Federal building that is posted.
    The question is did they take guns into a posted office building?

    • Roy J October 6, 2016 at 2:24 pm

      True, and the prosecution seems to be arguing the weapons charges along the lines of carrying within a federal building, and discharging those firearms. Probably the case will become more clear when the transcripts are complete in, say, 3-6 months, depending on what document provider you can afford.

    • godisdead October 6, 2016 at 4:59 pm

      These knuckleheads publicly declared they were taking the federal governments property and holding it for local control. They did this with weapons.

  • Joey October 6, 2016 at 1:48 pm

    People do need to take a stand and keep telling the Bundy’s we are tired of them taking from all Americans. It is always the governments fault in the Bundy eyes. The Bundy’s pick and choose what laws they live by and what teachings of the LDS church they obey.

    The Bundy’s are an embarrassment to Nevada the Nation and the LDS church!

    • .... October 7, 2016 at 8:21 am

      Joey. You pretty much summed it up right there ! I agree with you 100% ! I have no sympathy for them. they need to be held accountable for their actions.

  • delong October 6, 2016 at 9:28 pm

    I really feel for the jury as they are probably ready to choke themselves from the pathetic defense. This conviction can’t come soon enough, then onward to the NV trial for many more years in prison! These clowns actually thought there might be a jury out there that would believe their BS. The tax payers lost again.

  • anybody home October 7, 2016 at 9:10 am

    Ammon Bundy lied throughout his 3-day testimony and then when cross-examined on Thursday claimed to have “forgotten” what he said. The cross, by the way, lasted 20 minutes or so and was very focused. He’s a smart alecky thug who has challenged both the judge and the prosecution leader. Neither have let him get away with it. He made a big mistake in picking Oregon for his “hard stand,” because Oregon wanted nothing to do with it. In effect, he went to Burns to incite Sheriff Dave Ward to break the law regarding the Hammonds. As for the law helping the Bundys at Bunkerville, the law was hoping only to avoid a blood bath. They were rewarded two days later when two people from the Bundy side of the standoff killed two LE in Vegas. The Bundys are a boil on the arse of America.

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