I don’t think anyone saw this coming.
A federal jury on Thursday found Ammon Bundy, his brother Ryan Bundy and five co-defendants not guilty of conspiring to prevent federal employees from doing their jobs through intimidation, threat or force during the 41-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
The Bundy brothers and occupiers Jeff Banta and David Fry also were found not guilty of having guns in a federal facility. Kenneth Medenbach was found not guilty of stealing government property, and a hung jury was declared on Ryan Bundy’s charge of theft of FBI surveillance cameras.
“Stunning,” said defense lawyer Lisa Ludwig, who was standby counsel for Ryan Bundy.
“I’m just thrilled,” said Neil Wampler’s attorney Lisa Maxfield.
The jury of nine women and three men returned the verdicts after five hours of deliberations on Thursday in the high-profile case that riveted the state and drew national and international attention to the federal bird sanctuary in rural eastern Oregon.
The courtroom soon descended into chaos after the verdicts were read. Ammon Bundy’s attorney was tackled and tased by U.S. Marshals as he yelled that Bundy should immediately be freed.
The coda to the stunning verdict, undoubtedly a significant blow to federal prosecutors, was when Ammon Bundy’s lawyer Marcus Mumford argued that his client, dressed in a gray suit and white dress shirt, should be allowed to walk out of the court, a free man.
U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown told him that there was a U.S. Marshal’s hold on him from a pending federal indictment in Nevada.
“If there’s a detainer, show me,” Mumford stood, arguing before U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown.
Suddenly, a group of about six U.S. Marshals surrounded Mumford at his defense table and grabbed on to him.
“What are you doing?” Mumford yelled, as he struggled and was taken down to the floor.
As deputy marshals yelled, “Stop resisting,” the judge demanded, “Everybody out of the courtroom now!”
Mumford was taken into custody, a member of his legal team confirmed.
Ammon Bundy’s lawyer J. Morgan Philpot, said afterwards on the courthouse steps that Mumford had been arrested and a taser had been used on him. That could not be independently confirmed.
I’m frankly at a loss for words.
Was this a true “not guilty” verdict where the prosecution failed to make a compelling case for any of the charges against the seven defendants? Or was this an example of jury nullification in action, with a jury deciding that they disliked the federal government’s case, and issued “not guilty” verdicts as a moral stand against a government that has all too often been accused—and rightfully, I may add—with abusing their power?
It’s going to be very interesting to see reactions on this story play out.
It’s also going to be interesting to see the justification for the Marshals tasing and arresting an attorney seeking his client’s release.