PORTLAND, Oregon, June 11, 2016 (Gephardt Daily) ─ Dissident Nevada ranchers Ammon and Ryan Bundy have won a significant legal battle with federal prosecutors as they prepare to go trial ─ along with six other defendants ─ over the armed occupation last January of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge outside Burns, Ore.
Word of the legal victory came late Friday, as U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown issued a 16-page ruling dismissing the most serious charge facing the defendants, saying that a conspiracy count accusing the group of using and carrying firearms in the course of a “crime of violence” to impede federal workers was too broad, and had to be thrown out.
Defense lawyers had previously argued that federal prosecutors erred when applying the law to the Malheur occupation since it originally pertained to violent crimes such as bank robberies.
It is a key legal win for the Malheur defendants, who face a litany of other conspiracy charges connected to the 41-day standoff in east central Oregon.
The siege came to an end soon after Arizona rancher Robert “LaVoy” Finicum was shot and killed in a roadside confrontation with the FBI and Oregon State Police.
Being found guilty of committing a crime of violence while carrying a firearm could have resulted in a mandatory minimum sentences of five years in federal prison, with a maximum penalty of life. The sentences for such an offense would also run consecutive to any other sentences imposed by the court.
Other counts facing the defendants, although serious, have no mandatory minimums and could run concurrently.
Defense attorneys characterized Friday’s ruling as a significant legal win, greatly reducing the prospects of prolonged prison sentences should their clients be convicted.
Trial for the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is set for Sept. 7 of this year.
Ammon Bundy, 40, and his brother Ryan, 43, still face a long list of charges stemming from the 2014 standoff with federal officials over grazing rights outside the Bundy family’s ranch in Bunkersville, Nev.
They, along with their father, Cliven, 70, and brothers, Dave, 38, and Melvin, 41, have been charged with more than a dozen felonies, including:
- One count of conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States
- One count of conspiracy to impede or injure a federal officer
- Four counts of using and carrying a firearm in relation to a crime of violence
- Two counts of assault on a federal officers
- Two counts of threatening a federal law enforcement officer
- Two counts of interference with intestate commerce by extortion
- And one count of interstate travel in aid of extortion
Trial in the Bunkerville case is set for February of 2017.
Finicum, 54, was an ardent supporter of Ammon and Lyle Bundy, as well as their father, Cliven, who spent years locked in federal land use battles with the Bureau of Land Management.
Finicum first met the Bundys during their standoff with BLM officials outside Bunkerville, Nev., in April 2014.
In May 2016, Carol Bundy, Cliven Bundy’s wife, told Gephardt Daily she was heartbroken when she learned of Finicum’s death. To hear her comments, please click in the video player below.