Feds drop charges against Oregon occupier, radio host Pete Santilli

Pete Santilli

PORTLAND, Ore., Sept. 7, 2016 (Gephardt Daily) — Federal prosecutors in Oregon have dropped conspiracy charges against Pete Santilli, the self-proclaimed patriot and Internet radio host facing trial for his alleged role in the armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

Prosecutors filed a motion in Oregon’s U.S. District Court late Tuesday afternoon asking Judge Anna J. Brown to dismiss charges against Santilli less than a day before jury selection in his case was scheduled to begin.

“Based on pretrial evidentiary rules excluding evidence against Santilli the government has decided that the interests of justice do not support further pursuit of these charges against Santilli,” prosecutors wrote.

Santilli, 51, gained a modicum of fame during the 2014 Bunkerville, Nev., standoff when he used his webcasts to rally armed support for rancher Cliven Bundy in his dispute over grazing rights with the BLM.

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In January 2016, Santilli joined Cliven’s sons, Ammon and Ryan Bundy, in the takeover of the federal wildlife refuge site, where he often broadcast from inside the compound.

Santilli’s legal counsel had spent months fighting for their client’s release, saying his work as a journalist was protected by the First Amendment.

According to the motion by federal prosecutors, Santilli will remain behind bars until he faces federal charges filed in Nevada for his alleged role in supporting the Bunkerville standoff.

“Santilli still faces significant charges in the District of Nevada, and his release from the Oregon charges should make clear that he will be transported to Nevada forthwith to face charges …” wrote Billy J. Williams, United States Attorney.

Santilli is expected to be moved to a Nevada lock-up, where he’ll await a February 2017 trial date.

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