Convicted Felon Blaine Cooper Testifies for Government
by Shari Dovale
Shuffling through in jailhouse shackles and shoes, Blaine Cooper took the stand to testify against the final defendants on the Malheur Protest Trial in Portland.
In a deal brokered by the Federal prosecutors, he testified he has not been promised a reduction in his sentence, but he is hoping for one. He also said that he was not asked to testify today, rather that he offered to do so.
Cooper described himself as becoming a type of celebrity, with over 30,000 followers on his YouTube Channel by 2014. He seemed to thrive in believing he was a public figure. He talked about the various ‘operations’ he was a part of, from Bunkerville to Sugar Pine Mine, Oregon, and Big Sky in Montana.
His testimony included describing a meeting on December 29, 2015 in a private home in Burns, Oregon, naming several people as attendees, including BJ Soper, Joseph O’Shaughnessy, Ryan Payne, Ammon Bundy, Jon Ritzheimer, Jason Patrick and Corey Lequieu. He testified that the attendees were directed to leave the phones and computers in another room during the meeting.
This meeting, he said, was where the taking of the Refuge was first discussed. They were not expecting to meet any employees, but if they did they were to politely ask them to leave. If they refused, “we would have probably removed them, I believe,” Cooper said.
Cooper also stated that BJ Soper and Joseph O’Shaughnessy were against the plan, with Soper clearly saying he wanted nothing to do with it, though O’Shaughnessy was willing to stay in town and offer moral support.
Blaine then told of Jon Ritzheimer wondering if someone “Let the cat out of the bag” when they passed police on the way to the Malheur Refuge on January 2nd. He also told of Brand Thornton playing his Shofar as they arrived at the Refuge. Cooper described the sound of the Shofar as ready for “Battle, and God is with us.”
“The idea was to stay there as long as it took” to redistribute the land to the people of Harney County.
On cross examination, Andrew Kohlmets, Jason Patrick’s standby attorney, questioned the government’s witness extensively. Kohlmets pointed out several discrepancies in Cooper’s direct testimony, including the statement that he never carries a firearm due to his felony convictions.
When Cooper was arrested February 11, 2016, he admitted to an FBI agent that he had carried an AR-15 at Bunkerville in 2014. Additionally, he fired a handgun in a video made at his home, in front of his wife and daughters, while wearing a mask.
It was also pointed out that Cooper was never in the military, though he liked to wear military gear. He explained that he wears “militia” clothes and gear at these events.
Kohlmets also played a 4 and a half minute clip of a video where Cooper desecrated a Quran by tearing out pages, wrapping them in bacon and throwing them on a fire. He then shoots arrows into the remainder of the book before adding it to the fire, as well.
Kohlmets continued to point out inconsistencies, including statements made on several jail-recorded phone calls that Cooper made. During one phone call with a friend, when asked who’s idea it was to go to the refuge, he responds that he didn’t know. He didn’t think it was any one person’s idea.
In another call to his wife, Blaine tells her that he did not know they were going in [to the Refuge]. In describing some of the statements in the phone calls, he tried to say that “disinformation” was not really a lie.
Caught in several contradictory statements, it was made clear in front of the jury that Cooper would do anything to reduce his time in jail. In a letter to Ammon Bundy, he wrote, that God sent him two crappy attorneys that manipulated him. “I intend to do anything I have to to get home to my kids.”