PORTLAND, Ore. (UPI) — The leaders of an anti-government militia that took control of a bird sanctuary in rural Oregon earlier this year — and spent more than a month there — were acquitted Thursday of several charges brought by federal prosecutors stemming from the standoff.
Jurors acquitted leader Ammon Bundy, his brother Ryan and five followers of federal conspiracy and weapons charges in a Portland courtroom, bringing an end to the saga that began at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge on Jan. 2.
The Bundys and several others occupied the wildlife refuge as a protest against federal government authority over U.S. farmers and ranchers, and remained there for 41 days as federal and local authorities tried to force them off the government land.
One supporter, Robert Finicum, was killed near the end of the ordeal when FBI agents cornered him and several associates on a road near the eastern Oregon refuge.
All seven were charged with conspiracy to impede federal land managers through force and intimidation, and five faced gun charges. Their trial began on Sept. 13.
Defense attorneys, though, argued that the government failed to conclusively show anyone in the militia conspired to take over the land and keep federal workers from their jobs — or possess firearms on federal property, as prosecutors alleged.
In addition to the conspiracy and weapons charges, the jury also found defendant Kenneth Medenbach not guilty of stealing government property and were hung on a charge that Ryan Bundy stole FBI surveillance equipment.
“Stunning,” Ryan Bundy lawyer Lisa Ludwig said.
“I’m just thrilled,” Lisa Maxfield, attorney for defendant Neil Wampler, added.
Jubilant supporters shouted, hugged and passed on the news immediately following the verdict.
The panel of nine women and three men deliberated for five hours Thursday before rendering their verdict.
Their decision, though, was not the most shocking event at Thursday’s hearing.
Ammon Bundy’s attorney, Marcus Mumford, was subdued and arrested by six federal marshals in the courtroom after repeatedly demanding the judge release the Bundy brothers in view of the verdict. The other five defendants were allowed to leave.
“What are you doing?” Mumford shouted, as he was wrestled to the floor. Moments later, U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown ordered, “everybody out of the courtroom, now!”
Advocates of Mumford later said the marshals used a stun gun on him during the tussle.
The Bundys, however, were not set free because they still face criminal charges stemming from a different standoff in Nevada in 2014, in which they attempted to regain their father’s cattle.
It’s not clear what, if any, charges Mumford might face for the courtroom outburst.
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