PORTLAND, Ore., Feb. 24 (UPI) — Ammon Bundy, his brother and 14 others entered “not guilty” pleas in a Portland courtroom Wednesday stemming from the 41-day takeover of a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon.
The militia leader and the others pleaded not guilty to one count of federal conspiracy. Of the 16 charged, only 10 appeared in court. The others waived their appearance.
During the hearing, U.S. District Judge Anna Brown scheduled the trial date for April 29. More charges, though, are expected to delay the trial’s start, prosecutors said.
Bundy, who was among those who appeared in court Wednesday, told Brown that he wanted to address the court at the hearing, but she denied that request.
Bundy, 40, is the accused ringleader of the militia that took over the Malheur Wildlife Refuge on Jan. 2 — a standoff that lasted for more than a month and spurred a confrontation with federal authorities that resulted in the death of activist LaVoy Finicum.
In all, 25 people have been charged in the case.
Prosecutors have said they want to delay the trial due to the complex nature of the case and large number of defendants. Defense attorneys, though, want the action carried out as soon as possible, as does Judge Brown.
“My firm assertion is the case will be tried sooner than a year from now unless something makes that impossible,” she said in court Wednesday.
Brown also reminded the court that the defendants are presumed innocent until a jury finds otherwise — an assertion that drew criticisms from a few of the defendants.
“We’re being treated as we’re guilty,” Ryan Bundy, Ammon’s brother, said. “So I don’t understand the presumption of innocence.”
“It’s difficult to understand the presumption of innocence when I’ve spent the last month in a jail cell and led around in chains wherever I go,” co-defendant Ryan Payne said.
“I understand I have no rights at all. You’re the federal government,” defendant Jason Patrick added. “You’re going to do whatever you want.”