Second trial begins over occupation of Oregon wildlife refuge

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By Courtney Sherwood | PORTLAND, Ore.

PORTLAND, Ore. A prosecutor told jurors on
Tuesday that four men who took part in the armed occupation of a
federal wildlife refuge in Oregon last year in a land rights
protest were on trial for their actions, not their beliefs.

But in the defense’s opening argument, a lawyer for one of
those charged countered that the men were exercising their
constitutional rights to peaceably assemble and seek redress of
grievances.

Last October, another trial over the 41-day standoff ended
with the acquittal of anti-government activist Ammon Bundy and
six of his followers, who cast their protest as a patriotic act
of civil disobedience in opposition to U.S. government control
over millions of acres of public lands in the West.

“We are not prosecuting these defendants because of what
they said or think. We are prosecuting them because of what they
did,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Geoff Barrow told the jury in his
opening argument in Portland, Oregon federal court.

Jason Patrick, of Georgia, Duane Ehmer of Oregon, Jake Ryan
of Montana and Darryl Thorn of Washington state all face
multiple charges of trespassing, conspiracy to impede federal
employees through intimidation and tampering with vehicles and
equipment at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in rural
eastern Oregon. Each man also faces other criminal charges.

“The larger question underlying this entire case (is) who?
Who should decide the important issues in our rural communities?
The people who live and work there, or is it the federal
government?,” said defense lawyer Andrew Kohlmetz, who
represents Patrick, during his opening remarks.

Lawyers for the other defendants were scheduled to make
their opening remarks later on Tuesday. The trial was expected
to last four weeks.

A conspiracy charge brought against all four men carries a
maximum sentence of six years in prison. Fourteen other participants in the occupation have pleaded guilty to various
charges.

Ammon Bundy, his brother Ryan and their father Cliven Bundy
are in federal custody ahead of a trial scheduled to begin later
this year over another armed standoff with federal officers in
2014 in Nevada. The first of three trials in that case began on
Feb. 9.



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