Malheur II – Ammon Bundy Testifies
by Shari Dovale
Ammon Bundy entered the courtroom in his trademark “Political Prisoner” jailhouse scrubs and testified in the second Malheur Protest trial today.
During his own trial last fall, Bundy was on the stand for three days. Today’s testimony was complete in a few hours.
Bundy confirmed Blaine Cooper’s testimony of a meeting held on December 29, 2015 at a private home in Burns. He could not remember everyone that attended the meeting, specifically whether or not Jason Patrick had attended.
However, he did say that he asked everyone to leave their cell phones and computers in a separate room. Though it was not a “secret” meeting, he did not want his discussion to be broadcast.
He admitted that he was the one that originally brought up the idea of the “hard stand” and taking over the Malheur Wildlife Refuge.
Jason Patrick’s standby attorney, Andrew Kohlmets, took Bundy through the first part of his testimony, beginning in the fall of 2015, when he learned about the plight of the Hammond family.
Dwight and Steven Hammond are a father and son that were sent to prison under the Federal Antiterrorism Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 for starting a necessary backfire on their property.
Bundy felt the plight of the Hammond’s were very similar to what his family has been enduring at their ranch in Nevada.
After learning all of the details behind the Hammond’s troubles, Bundy attempted to get them help beginning with the Sheriff of Harney County, David Ward. Ward was a political appointee and immediately asked the FBI to take over for him, as he did not know how to deal with citizens on this level.
Bundy continued to tell the jury of how the Malheur Protest came about and what the actual plans were. These plans included educating the citizens and beginning ownership transfer of the Refuge property back to the citizens of Harney County through a legal doctrine called “adverse possession.”
As Bundy explained what adverse possession entailed, the prosecution objected to the legal premise being described. Judge Anna Brown reminded jurors that interpreting the law was for her alone in the courtroom.
By the time the prosecution questioned the witness, they seemed to be highly agitated. They fired several questions at Bundy intended to confuse his answers, however, he seemed confident and prepared for them.
Questions that Assistant U.S. Attorney Ethan Knight asked during cross examination included asking him if the Hammond’s had distanced themselves from “the refuge occupation and you?” Bundy was clear when he answered “No. They were threatened.”
Knight showed a video of protesters firing guns at the boat launch at the refuge and asked him, “That’s an expression of a peaceful assembly?”
“Correct,” was Bundy’s answer.
Knight made the mistake of asking Ammon if Ryan Payne led the group in the video at the boat launch. Bundy said, “No, I believe it was your undercover FBI guy that did that.”
Knight also asked if he thought it was a “Win, Win, Win for the 16 employees that could not go to work in their offices because of your actions?”
Bundy simply told him Yes.
Knight continued to get upset, “No one can work!”
“It is sometimes inconvenient to petition your government,” Bundy replied.
Each time the prosecutor would read quotes from the transcript of Bundy’s previous testimony, it seemed to get thrown back at him. “I would love for the jury to hear the whole audio,” Bundy said at one point.
The next witness was former Harney County Fire Chief Chris Briels. Briels had tendered his resignation when he caught the FBI being less-than-honest while in Burns last year. He was, basically, told to mind his own business by County Judge Steve Grasty.
Briels was also very effective with the jury, connecting with them with a few snarky comments.
At one point, Briels was asked what he first intended to do when he originally went to the Refuge. He told the court he “wanted to chew Ammon Bundy’s butt.” This produced snickers throughout the audience and jury.
Judge Anna Brown had to stop this immediately and threatened anyone that laughed again to be thrown out of the courtroom for the duration of the trial.
The government was not having their best day, but, the defendants were smiling.