Ammon Bundy said he had 'overwhelming feeling' that it was his ' - KPTV - FOX 12

Ammon Bundy said he had 'overwhelming feeling' that it was his 'duty to get involved'

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Ammon Bundy, file image (Source: CNN) Ammon Bundy, file image (Source: CNN)

After eight and a half months in jail, Ammon Bundy, the leader of the occupation at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, finally took the stand in federal court late Tuesday.

Bundy took the stand in his trial after several delays, and his lawyer’s goal seemed to be to illustrate Bundy’s motives and state of mind during the occupation, with the jury hearing from a man who feels that his family and the ranchers in Burns have been abused by the government.

Bundy took the stand wearing blue scrubs and a jail t-shirt with a copy of the Constitution in his breast pocket.

He described growing up on a ranch in Nevada, starting his own fleet maintenance business and his lawyer showed the jury a photo of Bundy’s wife Lisa and their six children.

Bundy said he became an activist after a standoff at his father Cliven Bundy’s ranch in Nevada in 2014.

The rancher claims the issue started when BLM workers began to confiscate the family’s cattle for illegal grazing on federal land, leading hundreds of people to travel there to protest.

In a video from that 2014 standoff shown in court Tuesday, Bundy was shocked with a stun gun three times when he confronted police and government vehicles.

“There was a tremendous amount of abuse that came upon my family about these grazing rights,” Bundy said. “We’ve learned in great depths what it means to hold onto those rights. It’s our heritage.”

In the fall of 2015, Bundy said his father told him about Dwight and Steven Hammond, ranchers in Burns, Oregon, convicted of arson on federal land.

On the stand, Bundy got choked up and paused several times, recalling a conversation with his father about the Hammonds.

“’I’m afraid that what’s happening to them is the same thing that happened to us,” he testified. “I said, ‘Dad, I can’t fight another battle. We’re doing the best we can to keep our family from going to prison.’  I told him I couldn’t get involved.”

The next day, though, Bundy said read up on the Hammonds’ case and he said he felt compelled to drive to Burns. He went to the Hammonds’ ranch and said Steven was broken, defeated and done fighting.

“It’s hard to describe, this overwhelming feeling that it was my duty to get involved and protect this family,” Bundy testified.

Four other witnesses testified during morning sessions of the trial, two of whom were Burns residents sympathetic to the occupiers and their views, and who both separately visited the refuge during the occupation.

These two witnesses said there was nothing threatening about their visits to the occupiers at the refuge, testimony seemingly meant to demonstrate the defense’s case that while the occupiers had firearms, they weren't pointing them in a threatening way.

That argument ties to the defense's assertions that federal workers could have gone to work at the refuge during the occupation if they'd wanted to and that the occupiers did not intimidate, threaten or force the federal refuge workers from coming to work.

The government contends that the seven people on trial did just that, though, keeping workers from their jobs through the use of threats and intimidation, in part because of the firearms the occupiers had at the refuge.

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