Ammon Bundy Testifies for Malheur Protest Trial
by Shari Dovale
Ammon Bundy has taken the stand to testify for all of the defendants in the Malheur Protest Trial taking place in Portland, Oregon.
Beginning on Tuesday, continuing Wednesday and expected to conclude Thursday, his testimony has had the prosecution and Judge Anna Brown scrambling for ways to block the most damaging points he is making to the prosecution’s case.
He began by telling how he got involved with the Hammonds. Having heard their names a couple of times, Ammon testified that he received a message on his phone November 2nd about the Hammonds going back to prison. He spent several hours that day researching the case and realized that he couldn’t turn his back on them.
Traveling from his home in Emmett, ID, he visited with the Hammonds in Burns, OR. He and a friend, Ryan Payne visited with Sheriff David Ward on November 5th. This began a journey that has not yet ended.
Ammon told the court that he made every attempt to talk to the Sheriff and other elected officials about this miscarriage of justice. Unbeknownst to Ammon, Sheriff Ward called the FBI on November 5th to turn the entire case over to them from the beginning.
Ammon filed a “Redress of Grievance” with everyone up to the Governor of Oregon, Kate Brown. He did not receive a single response to any of them. He did not realize at the time that the FBI were threatening, and intimidating, the elected officials to not respond to Ammon.
Bundy later found out that the Hammonds had been threatened if they did not stop talking to him. They had been told that the FBI “will detain them early and put them in a less desirable prison.” Dwight Hammond is 74 years old. A “less desirable prison” is nearly certain death for this man. Of course he was afraid.
Ammon also talked about other threats Mr. Hammond was afraid of, such as he would be shot in the back of the head and afraid that Ammon would be as well. Judge Brown did not allow this to be said in front of the jury.
Harney County Commissioner Pete Runnels is said to have told Ryan Payne that the FBI told him not to respond to the petitions for Redress of Grievance. Another Harney County Commissioner, Dan Nichols, traveled to the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in January to explain personally to Ammon that the FBI warned him not to respond to the petition.
Additionally, Gov. Kate Brown released a statement on January 20th that included, “They asked state officials, including me, to limit responses.” This confirms why no one respond to this legal petition. However, Judge Brown has limited how much of this information can be given to the jury.
This has sparked a storm of argument in the courtroom.
Basically, she is telling the defendants that they need to get the Hammonds, and the county commissioners into the courtroom to speak for themselves. What about Kate Brown? The judge allowed her to be released from her subpoena.
Ryan Bundy issued a subpoena for Gov. Brown which Judge Anna Brown quashed. Judge Brown has already stressed that all defendants are a team in this trial, that each motion made, regardless of who makes it, works for all of them. However, Ammon did not subpoena the governor, Ryan Bundy did that. Though it is directly on point, she is not allowing the testimony, and is putting her foot down on discussions of the governor.
These defense attorney really are trying their best for these political prisoners, but Judge Brown is fighting them every step of the way. Marcus Mumford is having a hard time keeping his temper with her, and is getting several points into the record.
Every chance she has, Judge Brown jumps in to remind the jury that Ammon can only testify as to his state of mind on the law, not the actual laws themselves. Only she can define the law for them. When Ammon talks about what they were doing is in line with the Constitution, Judge Brown has her say. If Ammon talks about “adverse possession” being legal, Judge Brown corrects him.
Mr. Mumford has even attempted to get her to admit that, though she defines the law within this court, that does not mean Ammon is wrong about the law. Judge Brown didn’t like that at all, and there was almost a yelling match between the two.
Her favoritism against the defense is getting way out of hand.
Ammon has also testified that his brother, Ryan Bundy, and his friend, LaVoy Finicum, were not involved with anything before the rally on January 2, 2016. They did not arrive in Burns until then, and Ammon did not speak with them before they arrived.
He has also taken complete responsibility for the decision to protest at the Malheur Refuge. Understanding how adverse possession works, the name of the refuge was changed to the “Harney County Resource Center”. Ammon explained that there are certain guidelines that must be followed to claim adverse possession. They needed to make it known and Take Claim. This was the reason for the name change and the signs declaring it.
They also needed to control the egress, or entrance to the location. Since there was no gate, they used vehicles and people. They did not stop anyone from coming or going, they just controlled it, as the law required.
Additionally, they flew the US Flag as high as they could (on top of the watch tower) and attempted to transfer the utilities into their name. They also obtained a PO Box in town. All of these things were done to follow the law of adverse possession.
Ammon also explained why they were sure to exercise their second amendment (2A) rights as well. The protesters believed that without their 2A rights, the FBI would just come in with a paddy wagon and zip tie them together. This way, they were given more serious consideration.
Bundy testified that he fully expected to be given an eviction notice and cited for trespass, as that should have been the proper response. That would have given everyone the foothold they needed to argue the merits in a court of law. He never expected them to go to the extremes they did and kill his friend on the side of the highway.
Bundy’s testimony continues tomorrow, when the prosecution will begin cross examination.