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on March 09, 2016 at 1:20 PM, updated March 10, 2016 at 9:08 AM
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A new six-count indictment unsealed Wednesday adds one more defendant and more charges in the armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge outside of Burns.
The indictment now charges 26 people, including an unnamed defendant, with federal conspiracy.
It also charges 20 of the defendants with possessing firearms and dangerous weapons at the federal refuge, nine with use and carry of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence, three with theft of government property and two with depredation of government property.
The indictment alleges Kenneth Medenbach stole and used a 2012 Ford F-350 truck that belonged to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and that Jon Ritzheimer and Ryan Bundy stole government cameras and related equipment during the course of the occupation.
Sean Anderson, one of the last four occupiers, and the unnamed defendant are accused of depredation of government property in their alleged excavation Jan. 27 of an archaeological site considered sacred to the Burns Paiute Tribe, the indictment says.
Occupation leader Ammon Bundy, his brother, Ryan Bundy, Ritzheimer, Ryan Payne, Brian Cavalier, Shawna Cox, Jason Patrick, Dylan Anderson, Sean Anderson, David Lee Fry, Jeff Wayne Banta, Sandra Lynn Anderson, Wesley Kjar, Corey Lequieu, Jason Charles Blomgren, Darryl Thorn, Geoffrey Stanek, Travis Cox, Eric Lee Flores and an unnamed defendant are charged with possession of a firearm and dangerous weapon in a federal facility at the refuge.
The two Bundy brothers, Ritzheimer, Payne, Cavalier, Patrick, Sean Anderson, Fry and Lequieu are accused of use and carry of a firearm in the course of trying to impede federal officers from doing their jobs at the refuge.
Seventeen defendants entered not guilty pleas in court Wednesday. They sat in three rows beside their lawyers in front of U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown.
When Ammon Bundy’s lawyer asked the judge to advise his client of his rights, Brown said Bundy has had his rights read in open court several times already and that was sufficient.
“I know I have no rights,” Ammon Bundy remarked out loud.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ethan Knight said another indictment is possible.
Forensic analysis is continuing on artifacts and other material from the refuge. So far, the government has shared about 3,500 pages of evidence with defense lawyers in the case, including law enforcement reports and dozens of search warrant affidavits, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Barrows.
The judge designated the case as complex, a formal finding that she said takes into consideration the number of defendants, volume and management of evidence and scope of trying to select a jury for what may be a month-long or longer trial. Brown said she’d wait until next month to set a firm trial date and noted that she still wanted to schedule a trial “as soon as possible for this matter.”
“I think any people looking at this room would have to concede the case is complex by the sheer volume of the persons accused,” Brown said.
The new indictment, filed late Tuesday and unsealed Wednesday, consolidates all the defendants into one case. The charges could bring prison sentences of between five years to life in prison, as well as fines.
Ammon Bundy and other leaders of the 41-day occupation have said they took over the refuge to protest the return to prison of Harney County ranchers Dwight Hammond Jr. and son Steven Hammond, and to demonstrate against federal government control of public land. The occupation lasted from Jan. 2 through Feb. 11. Most of the arrests occurred Jan. 26, with four holdouts surrendering Feb. 11.
Federal prosecutors argued for a protective order to prevent the disclosure of “sensitive discovery materials” to anyone not a party to the case. They asked that the court order the material to be shown only to the defendants, defense lawyers and their investigators. It would apply only to material created or written by the government, not to social media posts, for example.
The evidence includes interview reports, law enforcement reports, analysis of evidence and copies of seized physical evidence.
In support of the government’s motion, FBI special agent Katherine Armstrong wrote an affidavit that identified a number of instances when threats were made against Harney County law enforcement officials and federal workers and their families during the course of the refuge occupation.
Defense lawyers objected to a blanket protective order, calling its terms overly broad.
Andrew Kohlmetz, the lawyer for defendant Jason Patrick, also argued that FBI agent Armstrong’s account of threats and intimidation hasn’t been tied directly to the defendants in the federal conspiracy case and occurred during the refuge occupation.
Mike Arnold, Ammon Bundy’s defense lawyer, said the FBI agent’s affidavit failed to include the full story of threats. He said Armstrong’s affidavit referenced the parents of Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward being followed after leaving a school play and feeling harassed.
Arnold claimed it was Ward’s parents that made threats to Payne and Lequieu when the two defendants and others were passing out fliers for a rally in support of the Hammonds, and someone said they were going to force the sheriff to do his job. According to Arnold, Ward’s parents told the defendants they’d arm themselves if they attempted to harm “one hair on their son’s head.”
Ritzheimer’s lawyer, Terri Wood, also claimed that the agent’s allegation that her client harassed anyone in a Safeway lot in Bend was unsupported, noting Ritzheimer wasn’t in Oregon at that time.
Arnold accused the government of “selective” dissemination of information to the public. He argued that a protective order would have a “chilling effect” on his client and others. He also suggested that defense lawyers couldn’t rely on the “good will” of the government, citing the recent alleged misconduct by FBI agents involved in the stop of occupation spokesman Robert “LaVoy” Finicum.
Kohlmetz suggested that the government redact personal identification or other information that it doesn’t want shared.
Judge Brown said she’d keep the current restrictions — allowing lawyers to share evidence with their clients — temporarily, noting she wants to protect potential witnesses from any risk of intimidation or harm. But she instructed both sides to come up with an agreed upon, less restrictive order for future discovery material.
The new indictment was unsealed one day after investigators released their findings in the state police shooting death of Finicum on Jan. 26. Finicum, 54, was shot three times in the back by two state troopers after he reached a third time into his jacket pocket, investigators said. He was carrying a loaded gun and state troopers feared for their lives, they said.
An FBI agent failed to disclose two shots he had fired at Finicum as Finicum left his pickup truck at a police roadblock on U.S. 395, investigators said. One shot hit the roof of the pickup and another didn’t hit the truck or Finicum. The federal Office of the Inspector General, the FBI’s inspections division and Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office all continue to investigate those shots.
Three defendants who were released from custody — Duane Ehmer, Dylan Anderson and Geoffrey Stanek — were in court Wednesday.
Duane Ehmer wore a bright red, white and blue American flag button-down shirt to court. Co-defendant Pete Santilli apparently approved, turning in his seat to mouth to Ehmer, “You look sharp” before the proceedings began.
The other defendants who are out of custody waived their right to be present at hearing.
— Maxine Bernstein