Malheur II – (Not) Learning From Past Mistakes
by Shari Dovale
The opening statements for the second Malheur Protest Trial were very interesting. Beginning with Judge Anna Brown reading the jury instructions, I heard more bias from her when I was sure that I heard the phrase “the evidence will show.” Since she is who will decide the defendants fate on half of the charges, this seems to tell me they are already decided.
The prosecution looked to have stepped up their game when Geoff Barrow delivered the opening statement. He certainly connected better with the jury this go around than Ethan Knight did during the last trial.
However, Barrow made a very interesting observation during his opening. He told the jury that there was no factual evidence to convict these defendants. The prosecution is admitting their case is grasping at straws? Or, could they not be worried because they know it is already in the bag with Judge Brown?
Barrow also explained some of their witnesses, including Butch Eaton, expected to testify tomorrow. During the last trial, Eaton threw the prosecution a curve ball and stated on the stand that he still supported the Bundy brothers and their cause. This stunned the prosecution to the point of turning on him and treating him as a hostile witness. I wonder how they will treat him this time, especially since they warned the jury that he still supports the defendants.
The defense attorneys for the four accused jumped a few more notches in my book today. They made outstanding opening statements. Each one was on their game and you can tell that at least a couple of them connected with the jury.
The big surprise today was the first prosecution witness, former FBI Special Agent in Charge Greg Bretzing. Bretzing was in charge of the entire District of Oregon during the Malheur Protest. He authorized every move, and all aspects of the case. As he testified, he was in Burns during the entire 41 days, with minor exceptions. He signed off on each Informant, or Confidential Human Source (CHS). There was nothing he was not made aware of.
He explained that he was aware that Ammon Bundy had been in Oregon, but said there had been no surveillance, electronic or otherwise, placed on him. He became concerned about the Bundy brothers because he knew them from Bunkerville.
Contrary to the theory of the last trial, Bretzing did not name Ammon as “The Leader” of this protest. He told the court that there was a “group of 7 or 8” leaders, with Ammon among them.
Bretzing also explained that he used CHS informants because they volunteered and it kept his agents out of harms way.
Yet, when Andrew Kohlmets, Jason Patrick’s stand-by counsel, began his cross examination, all of a sudden, Mr. Bretzing developed a serious case of the “I don’t remember”s. He had trouble with nearly all details he was questioned on, including those of the CHS informants.
Bretzing was questioned on whether he knew that one of his CHS informants, Fabio Minoggio, also known as John Killman, may have “aided and abetted” the protesters. Kohlmets also wanted to know if Bretzing knew that Minoggio had engaged in unlawful conduct by providing training on guns and hand-to-hand combat. It seemed that Bretzing was having serious memory issues on all questions.
He could not remember who anyone was, or what they were doing at the refuge. He knew some guy named “Mark” had been an informant, but it took Kohlmets reminding him of the last name “McConnell” before it triggered a bit of a memory from Bretzing.
The judge would not allow the defense to pursue their entire line of questioning, as it was not discussed on direct examination. I certainly hope they call this man back to the stand when they present their case.
I have trouble believing that the prosecution would allow Bretzing to play these games on the stand. It not only makes him look incompetent, but it drags them down from the get go. It is almost as if they do not care if they win or lose. I have to ask again, are they just too confident in Judge Anna’s Bench Trial?
Mr. Bretzing will finish his testimony tomorrow, after which Butch Eaton is expected to testify.