Indictment Charges 16 In Oregon Wildlife Refuge Standoff

Ammond Bundy (center) and 15 others face federal conspiracy charges for the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

The following comes from a press release from FBI in Oregon.

On Wednesday, February 3, 2016, a federal grand jury returned an indictment charging 16 individuals in relation to the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Attached please find the unsealed indictment. Neither the U.S. Attorney’s Office nor the FBI can comment further give the on-going legal process.

On or about October 5, 2015, and continuing through the date of this indictment, in the District of Oregon, defendants AMMON BUNDY, JON RITZHEIMER, JOSEPH O’SHAUGHNESSY, RYAN PAYNE, RYAN BUNDY, BRIAN CAVALIER, SHAWNA COX, PETER SANTILLI, JASON PATRICK, DUANE LEO EHMER, DYLAN ANDERSON, SEAN ANDERSON, DAVID LEE FRY, JEFF WAYNE BANTA, SANDRA LYNN PFEIFER ANDERSON, and KENNETH MEDENBACH, did knowingly and willfully conspire and agree together and with each other and with persons known and unknown to the Grand Jury to prevent by force, intimidation, and threats, officers and employees of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, an agency within the Department of the Interior, from discharging the duties of their office at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 372.

In furtherance of the conspiracy and to effect the illegal objects thereof, one or more of the defendants and one or more of the conspirators performed the following overt acts in the District of Oregon and elsewhere, including but not limited to the following:

a. On or about October 5, 2015, two conspirators traveled to Harney County, Oregon, to warn the Hamey County sheriff of “extreme civil unrest” if certain demands were not met.

b. Beginning on January 2, 2016, defendants and conspirators occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by force while using and carrying firearms.

c. Beginning on January 2, 2016, defendants and conspirators brandished and carried firearms on the premises of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and prevented federal officials from performing their official duties by force, threats and intimidation.

d. Beginning on January 2, 2016, defendants and conspirators refused to leave the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and allow federal officials to return to their official duties.

e. Beginning on January 2, 2016, defendants and conspirators threatened violence against anybody who attempted to remove them from the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

f. Beginning in or about November 2015, defendants and conspirators recruited and encouraged other individuals, known and unknown to the grand jury, in person and through social media and other means of communication, to participate and
assist in the above-described conspiracy.

g. In or about November 2015 continuing through January 26, 2016, defendants and conspirators traveled to Harney County, Oregon, to intimidate and coerce the population of Harney County, Oregon, in order to effectuate the goals of the conspiracy.

Dated this “3” day of February 2016.

Among those named in the indictment are Sean Anderson, David Lee Fry, Jeff Wayne Banta, and Sandra Lynn Pfeifer Anderson, who are the four armed protesters who still remain at the refuge headquarters complex.

The conspiracy charge these face dates to the Civil War and was created to charge secessionists who might seize federal facilities as states were leaving the union, but ironically, wasn’t used during the Civil War, and it has only been used rarely within the past 50 years.

President Abraham Lincoln signed the bill into law July 31, 1861.

Oddly enough, nobody could identify any Civil-War era indictments under the law, wrote historian Catherine Tarrant in a 1971 academic article about conspiracy laws leading up to and during the war.

The law also has rarely been invoked in the modern era. A search of Westlaw showed fewer than 30 prosecutions over the last 50 years, said former Assistant U.S. Attorney Anders Folk.

But in those rare cases when prosecutors have invoked the conspiracy statute, it’s often been against people fighting for a cause. People prosecuted under it include environmental activists disobeying government orders and anti-war activists protesting in military recruitment centers.

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The Oregon State Sheriffs’ Association released a statement at almost the same time, making clear their position that they support the First Amendment right of free speech and protest, but not armed intimidation and threats against citizens or law enforcement officers.

Sheriffs in all 36 Oregon counties have taken an oath to support the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution of Oregon, and the laws thereof. Our oath is our pledge to you, to be conservators of the peace for our citizens, while being respectful of the rights afforded to all of us under the Constitution.

What a great state and nation we live in that allows everyone to express their opinion, hold a sign in protest, lobby for change and live free without fear of retaliation from the government. Our founding fathers created a system of government consisting of three branches: legislative, judicial and executive.

Sheriffs and Sheriff’s Offices are part of the executive branch, charged with enforcement of laws as directed by the legislative branch and interpreted by the judicial branch. Under our system of government, the judicial branch is given the authority to interpret the Constitutionality of our laws. We are a nation of laws, and the executive branch cannot override the laws passed by the legislative branch, nor can we ignore the clear guidance of the judicial branch. There is a process for changing the laws of our great nation and for amending our Constitution, and that process does not involve the armed takeover of government facilities and disruption of an entire community. We fully support the expression of political opinions, and advocating for change within the legal system — that is what sets our country apart from developing countries where the government is changed by an armed takeover.

Recently, men and women have broken the law and encouraged others to take up arms against our local and federal governments. These individuals have used firearms and their interpretation of the Constitution to justify their criminal behavior. These militia men and women have broken into publicly owned buildings, disrespected Native American heritage and intimidated and harassed local residents and officials.

These men and women are asking for change, and we support their right to challenge our government to make change. However, we do not agree with or support any citizen or elected official who would advocate for change in a manner that includes illegal action, threats of violence, or violence against any citizen of the United States.