Ammon Bundy returned Tuesday to a federal courtroom in Portland, four months after his stunning acquittal here on federal conspiracy and weapons charges.
This time, he took the stand as the first witness for the defense of four men who say they were inspired by his videos and calls to take a "hard stand in Burns'' and now face trial themselves on federal conspiracy and weapons charges in the 41-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
Prosecutors rested their case after 5 1/2 days of testimony, ending with a video played of refuge occupiers using the boat launch area as a makeshift firing range, aerial videos of two defendants operating an excavator to dig trenches on the property and an FBI agent called to dispute some of the defense arguments.
As a deputy U.S. marshal led Bundy into the courtroom about 11:05 a.m., supporters and family stood in the courtroom gallery.
"Please you need to be seated,'' U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown admonished. "Sit down or leave.''
Bundy, in loose-fitting blue jail scrubs above a jail-issued pink shirt, winked to his wife as he sat beside the judge in the witness stand. He looked out at the defendants and smiled and nodded at them.
Defense lawyer Andrew Kohlmetz took Bundy back to the fall of 2015.
At that time, Bundy said he was living in Emmett, Idaho, with his wife and six children. Spurred by concerns raised by his father, Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, Ammon Bundy said he began to research the plight of two Harney County ranchers, Dwight Hammond Jr. and son Steven Hammond, who were resentenced for setting fire to public land and ordered to serve out five-year minimum mandatory sentences in federal prison.
"I felt a drive - an urge to find out all I can,'' Bundy said. He retold to this jury how he wrote a letter to "concerned citizens and government officials'' in November 2015 and then drove to Burns to meet the Hammonds.
What the Hammonds were facing was "very similar to what was happening to my family,'' Bundy said.
"I felt what was happening to the Hammonds was a gross abuse of government, and I felt it needed to be exposed,'' he testified as jurors listened raptly, some taking notes.
He said he also met with Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward in November 2015 "to see if he would bring light and stand for the Hammonds.''
Bundy testified about how he believed the sheriff is the chief law enforcement officer in the county and his job is "to make sure the people are protected.''
Bundy testified from about 11:20 a.m. until noon Tuesday and was set to testify when court resumed at 1:15 p.m.
Before Bundy took the stand, Kohlmetz indicated to the judge that he planned to introduce 40-plus exhibits during Bundy's testimony. Prosecutors balked.
"The government has objections to virtually all of those,'' said Assistant U.S. Attorney Ethan Knight, drawing chuckles from spectators.
"If you can't control yourselves, step out,'' the judge told the crowd.
Knight argued that some of the exhibits "go pretty far afield'' and have little to do with the defendants' alleged conspiracy. So Kohlmetz presented the exhibits one by one for the judge's ruling on whether to allow each as evidence.
Kohlmetz estimated that his direct examination of Bundy would last an hour. Knight estimated that his cross-examination could be about an hour -- much longer than the under-15-minute cross-examination that Knight did of Bundy during the first trial last fall.
Bundy was transferred on Saturday to Oregon from Nevada, where he awaits trial on federal conspiracy, extortion and assault charges stemming from the 2014 standoff with federal land agents near the Bundy Ranch in Bunkerville, Nevada. He was acquitted of conspiracy and weapons charges last October in Portland in the armed refuge takeover following a five-week trial before Brown.
Before prosecutors rested, FBI Agent Ronnie Walker testified that the first trench dug near the west embankment of the refuge left .16 acres of damage and the second one by the front gate caused .06 acres in damage.
He testified that defendants Duane Ehmer and Jake Ryan operated the excavators on the morning of Jan. 27, 2016. Ryan was seen in video wearing a green parker jacket over his tactical vest as he operated the refuge excavator.
He also sought to rebut some defense arguments, such as showing that a defense photo of a helicopter flying above the refuge was really a Fox News copter, not the FBI's.
He talked about papers found on the refuge that delineated the occupiers' infantry squads and rapid response teams and their leaders. He pointed out that "SLYone'' was defendant Darryl Thorn, who was in charge of Rapid Response Team 2.
-- Maxine Bernstein
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