Malheur Protest Trial – Week 2 Wrap Up
by Shari Dovale and Aubrie Bosworth
The week has been tremendous. The opening statements consumed the first day. The government’s first witness, Sheriff David Ward of Harney County, began the second day. He could not convince the spectators that he was ever afraid of Ammon Bundy or any other protesters. It did seem that he was supposed to do this, but never quite made it there.
Ward’s second-in-command testified that Ryan Payne made a threat to Sheriff Ward, however, Needham never arrested him, or even reacted to it, at the time. It was never an issue until the trial. The threat included saying that Ward was not a Constitutional Sheriff and he (Needham) should remove him from office “by any means necessary.”
Butch Eaton was a prosecution witness that the government never properly prepared, it seems. He praised the protesters and told of how afraid he became of the FBI. The prosecution was so upset that they turned hostile on him during redirect questioning.
Judge Anna Brown has shown her bias throughout. She allowed the prosecution, and the FBI to get away with lying on the stand and tainting the Facebook evidence. She also allowed the prosecution to harass Butch Eaton on the stand. When the defense objected, she claimed that he kinda, sorta, changed to a defense witness, so it was okay.
The refuge manager, Chad Karges, admitted that he, and only he, told the employees of the refuge to go home and not return to work until he instructed them to. He also said they ended up working at the BLM office in town, instead of getting the time completely off. He stated that his decisions were partly based on government reports that he read on Bunkerville. I never heard him clarify where he got those reports.
Additionally, he told the workers to go home two full days before the rally. However, he later attempted to say that when he saw the cars heading to the refuge after the rally, that is when he got concerned. He never made complete sense on these points.
The government showed pictures of vehicles blocking roads to the refuge, however, they never established when those vehicles were placed in those positions. They showed photos of many people at the refuge, but focused on one or two that held weapons. These particular people are not defendants in either trial.
The Facebook evidence was cherry-picked. For example, they would show a private message that Ammon is said to have sent, but they would not include the entire conversation. They felt the entire thread was not relevant. Then they might show a ‘meme’ that was on his page, claiming that proved he was dangerous, or some such thing. It was a circus!
Much of the evidence was not relevant, but it was allowed into the record. At least one of the FBI agents that presented the facebook evidence is on call to be returned to the stand, as is Sheriff Ward.
The best part of the week was on Thursday when Ammon came into the courtroom in jail scrubs. The judge made a point of instructing the jury not to attach any meaning to his choice of clothing, but, it was a powerful political statement.
All week, the three that have not been allowed out on bail have been dressed like ragamuffins. They may have had collared shirts, but they were not the correct sizes and they were wrinkled. They were not allowed belts or ties. The judge allowed it, even to the point of taking photos of the prisoners for the court record. The impressions that they must have been giving to the jury were sad, indeed.
Knowing he was not going to be allowed to dress the way he chose, knowing they would probably bring him in wearing handcuffs, as they do on some days but not all, and knowing they have complete control over ever aspect of his life, all because of a political protest, Ammon put his foot down.
He did not dress as they chose, but insisted that he would be presented as he was, a political prisoner. His brother, Ryan, backed him up, and the other defendants did not complain. Protesters outside heard the news, and by Friday there was at least one protester wearing scrubs to show solidarity. There have been rumors as to who else might join him in this protest, but we will wait to see.
The attorney’s for Ammon filed a motion for mistrial this week based on the testimonies of Sheriff Ward and Mr. Karges. Believing that they misdie=recrted the jury by references to events that did not involve any of the defendants, or the Malheur Refuge, they argued that is was unfairly prejudicial. Judge Brown ruled against the motion, stating that she believed the jury was smarter than average and would be able to sort it out.
Ryan also filed a motion for Judge Brown to recuse herself. This motion has been sent to the Chief judge, and will be ruled on in due time, or so I understand.
The rally’s outside the courthouse and jail have been amazing. Patriots from as far away as Oklahoma have shown up to wave flags and hold signs. Friday night showed a message in the window of the jail that gave everyone’s heart an extra beat.
Jason Blomgren is scheduled to testify on Monday, however, there has been some talk that he has been rescheduled, if not removed from the witness list. The prosecution may be afraid of another ‘Butch Eaton’ situation, and it backfiring on them.
The government has indicated that they expect to rest their case this week. If so, the trial has just shortened dramatically, and could possibly end the second week in October. It was originally expected to last at least nine weeks, possibly as long as Thanksgiving.
We are excited as to what this week will bring, and we intend to share it all with you!