Burns Chronicles No 57
Collusion or Conspiracy?
by Gary Hunt
On October 27, 2016, shortly after the very just verdict of “Not Guilty” was announced in the Ammon Bundy, et al, Group 1 trial, a meeting was held in the Mark O. Hatfield Federal District Courthouse. The 12 jurors, Judge Anna Brown, and a court reporter, attended the meeting. It lasted about one and a half hours.
It is my understanding that such a meeting is not unusual. However, circumstances surrounding this particular meeting are, to say the least, quite unusual, considering context. That is exactly what we are going to do.
The first irregularity occurred when the Prosecutor moved to have the trial declared “complex”, which allowed the Court to circumvent the right to a speedy trial and to break the defendants up into two groups. The first Group (mostly leaders) was tried in September and October 2016, and the second Group to be tried beginning in February 2017. While the delayed trial date was agreeable, as the Defendants needed the additional time to prepare their defense, one drawback is that many of the Defendants were held in custody until the verdict was reached, in the first trial. The latter trial date made the government’s case easier, as they had smaller groups to try, and it gave time to elicit plea bargains, thereby reducing the number who would be prosecuted at trial.
Next, during the pre-trial “paper chase”, with hundreds of motions filed, answered, and finally ruled on, there is no doubt that bias existed on the part of Judge Anna Brown. Behind the scenes, many of us followed this legal maneuvering for months. It seemed that even when the arguments presented by the defense were well supported, Judge Brown would still rule against the defense and in favor the Prosecution.
During the trial, there were rather strict rules imposed on the defense, especially when they sought to call additional witnesses to testify. Judge Brown ruled that to allow that would be “repetitive”. However, the prosecution showed a 1-minute video of approximately twenty of the occupiers firing across a canal. The fact that the Prosecution showed that footage four times, however, was not considered “repetitive”.
Finally, and here we get to the meeting, Judge Brown called all of the participating jurors into the meeting, after dismissing the alternate jurors. In that meeting, she explained that she would answer their questions, if they had any. She also asks some questions, and explained that the answers would help the prosecution and the defense. So, just how could it help the defense? The Defense prevailed. It could only help the Prosecution gain insight into the jurors’ minds in order to determine what they would need to overcome to obtain guilty verdicts in the Group 2 trial.
Some jurors indicated that had the charges been less serious, like simple “misdemeanor trespass”, it would have been much easier to render a guilty verdict.
Let me interrupt, for a moment, and point out that the Judge holds office under Article III (Judicial Branch of Government), and is, in essence, an impartial referee. Her job is to “administer law in a court of justice”, “to control the proceedings”, and to make “decisions of questions of law or discretion”. Her job is not to favor one side over the other, but rather to stand aside, interjecting only to the extent necessary to assure a fair trial.
There is no doubt that Judge Brown, confounded by the not guilty verdict, passed the insight she obtained from the meeting with the jurors to the Prosecution. The Prosecution, after waiting a few months, charged some of the remaining defendants with several misdemeanor charges, though all seven defendants were charged with “misdemeanor trespass”.
Remember, the jurors said that they might have convicted if the charges were to lesser offenses. So, the likelihood of getting a conviction, no matter how small the charges, would be a sort of redemption for the dismal failure in the first trial. After all, the government has spent, according to some with access to such information, over one-hundred million dollars on the persecution, with nothing to show for it. So, Judge Brown adds these new misdemeanor charges to the trial docket.
Concerned that even though the first jury might have found them guilty on lesser charges, Judge Brown, in a rather patronizing manner, asks both sides to present arguments as to whether the misdemeanor charges should be heard by the jury or treated as a bench trial, where the Judge would rule on innocence, guilt, and punishment. Of course, we knew what her decision would be, even before the arguments were presented. With total disregard for the Constitution, as explained in “To Jury, or, Not To Jury“, she used her “discretion” to hold the trials at the same time, in front of the jury. When the jury goes to deliberate the felony charges, she will continue with the bench trial, and find them guilty as charged and will withhold any sentencing until after the jury verdict has been rendered.
Now, there are three parties in a trial. There is the Judge, a member of the Judicial Branch of government. Then, there is the US Attorney, a member of the Executive Branch of the government, and, finally, the defendants, members of the “We the People” Branch of the government.
Judge Brown, the supposed neutral party, has already crossed the line that is to separate the Branches of government, in our tripartite system of government. And, that is an illegal act, defined as collusion.
An agreement between two or more persons to defraud a person of his rights by the forms of law, or an object forbidden by law. It implies the existence of fraud of some kind, the employment of fraudulent means, or of lawful means for the accomplishment of an unlawful purpose. A secret combination, conspiracy, or concert of actions between two or more persons for fraudulent or deceitful purposes.
— Black’s Law Dictionary – Fifth Edition
Under this circumstance, the collusion between the two separate branches of government, to defraud the defendants of their rights, we can find a more apt descriptor for what has transpired throughout, though even more so, in these waning days of the legal battle between government and the occupiers. Since both parties to the collusion are officials of government, the higher descriptor of conspiracy (Yes, that same charge brought against the defendants) is far more appropriate.
[T]hough individual oppression may now and then proceed from the courts of justice, the general liberty of the people can never be endangered from that quarter; I mean so long as the judiciary remains truly distinct from both the legislature and the Executive. For I agree, that there is no liberty, if the power of judging be not separated from the legislative and executive powers.
— Alexander Hamilton – Federalist Papers #78
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As this article was being written, the Prosecution offered four of the seven remaining defendants a plea deal that they chose not to refuse. They will be found guilty of “misdemeanor trespass”, sentenced to time served, given one year of “bench probation” (meaning no reporting, etc., simply stay out of trouble), and will not lose their right to bear arms. The only stickler is that “restitution” will be determined at a later date.
So, the government did get some of the defendants guilty of “misdemeanor trespass”, perhaps assuming that the charges of “misdemeanor trespass” will flow more easily from the lips of Judge Brown, when she will surely convict the remaining defendants of the same “misdemeanor trespass” charges.