Closing arguments begin in trial of Malheur Wildlife Refuge occu - KPTV - FOX 12

Closing arguments begin in trial of Malheur Wildlife Refuge occupiers

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Closing arguments started on Tuesday in the trial of Ammon Bundy and the other Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupiers.

Ammon and Ryan Bundy, Jeff Banta, Shawna Cox, David Fry, Ken Medenbach and Neil Wampler are charged with conspiracy to impede federal workers, and a few are facing weapons and theft charges.

U.S. Attorneys say it's clear that this group conspired to keep the Bureau of Land Management and Fish and Wildlife employees from doing their jobs, but the defense argues they were taking a legal and necessary stand against government over-reach.

After a lot of talk about the constitution, the plight of ranchers and the right to free speech, U.S. Attorney Ethan Knight reminded jurors about the alleged crime of conspiracy in this case.

"These defendants are not on trial for their beliefs. But the First Amendment is not a defense for these crimes," Knight said in court on Tuesday.

Prosecutors say Ammon Bundy and his co-defendants conspired to occupy the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and stop federal employees from doing their jobs there.

In court on Tuesday, prosecutors showed videos and photos again of occupiers blocking entrances to the refuge, changing signs and taking over federal officers. And most of the people were armed, some with military style rifles.

Knight said this crossed the line of the right to bear arms and became clear intimidation.

"It was the role of firearms in this case to allow the conspiracy to continue," said Knight.

In his closing arguments, Ammon Bundy's lawyer Marcus Mumford warned the jury not to be tricked by the government. Mumford says the FBI used informants to deceive and manipulate the occupiers to get damning evidence, like video of men target shooting at the refuge.

Mumford also said conspiracy can only be proven if they were doing something illegal, but he says the group was trying to legally return federal land to the locals.

"It is neither threat nor intimidation if action is legal or legitimate, which they believe it was," said Mumford.

Mumford told the jury there was a conspiracy here, an agreement between the occupiers to uncover illegal land transactions, help the Hammond family and do what's right.

"Ammon Bundy has been in jail for nine months, waiting for this opportunity. He's counting on you," Mumford said in court.

Six other defense attorneys still have to offer their closing arguments and then the government will give its rebuttal.

The jury may be handed the case Wednesday afternoon.

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