Jury acquits leaders of standoff at Malheur National Wildlife Re - KPTV - FOX 12

Jury acquits leaders of standoff at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

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PORTLAND, OR (AP) -

The leaders of an armed group that took over a national wildlife refuge in rural Oregon have been found not guilty of conspiracy and possession of firearms at a federal facility.

A jury on Thursday exonerated brothers Ammon and Ryan Bundy, Shawna Cox, David Lee Fry, Jeff Wayne Banta, Kenneth Medenbach and Neil Wampler of conspiring to impede federal workers from their jobs at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

Jurors also acquitted Ryan Bundy on charges of possession of firearms at a federal facility, but could not reach a verdict on a charge of theft.

"While we had hoped for a different outcome, we respect the verdict of the jury and thank them for their dedicated service during this long and difficult trial," Billy J. Williams, United States Attorney for the District of Oregon, said. "We strongly believe that this case needed to be brought before a Court, publicly tried, and decided by a jury."

According to the Department of Justice, Jason Blomgren, Brian Cavalier, Blaine Cooper, Eric Flores, Wesley Kjar, Corey Lequieu, Joseph O’Shaughnessy, Ryan Payne, Jon Ritzheimer, Geoffrey Stanek, and Travis Cox previously pleaded guilty to charges tied to the standoff. Seven more defendants will go to trial in February, while the charges against one defendant, Peter Santilli, have been dismissed.

“For many weeks, hundreds of law enforcement officers – federal, state, and local – worked around-the-clock to resolve the armed occupation at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge peacefully," Greg Bretzing, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon, said. "We believe now – as we did then – that protecting and defending this nation through rigorous obedience to the U.S. Constitution is our most important responsibility."

Following the verdict, Ammon Bundy's defense lawyer Marcus Mumford demanded his client be released immediately.

Mumford kept yelling at the judge and wouldn't calm down, so U.S. marshals used their stun guns on the attorney and then wrestled him to the floor.

Another Bundy lawyer, Morgan Philpot, says Mumford has been arrested.

The judge told Mumford that Bundy would be held because he's also facing charges in Nevada stemming from a 2014 standoff at his father Cliven Bundy's ranch.

After Mumford was tackled, the judge cleared the courtroom.

Mumford was released by the Federal Protective Service Thursday night. He will be charged with failure to comply and disturbance, which will be a class C misdemeanor. Mumford will appear in court on January 6, 2017.

The standoff began Jan. 2 and lasted nearly six weeks, bringing new attention to a long-running dispute over control of federal lands in the U.S. West.

Oregon Governor Kate Brown issued a statement following the verdict announcement, saying that while she respects the jury's decision, she does not think the standoff reflected, "the Oregon way of respectfully working together to resolved differences."

Harney County Sheriff David Ward, who testified in the trial and was a central figure during the standoff, noted in a statement that he was "disappointed" with the verdict but would stand by it.

While I am disappointed in the outcome, I believe our form of government and justice system to be the best in the world.  These folks were tried in a court of law and found not guilty by a jury of their peers.

This is our system and I stand by it.

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