Saturday, April 30, 2016

Oregon standoff defendants' motions: Dismiss charges due to vagueness, government overreach

A ream of legal motions reveal some of the defense arguments in the pending federal conspiracy case against more than two dozen people indicted in the armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Some of their lawyers are urging the court to dismiss specific counts of the indictment. They argue that the conspiracy charge is "unconstitutionally vague'' and that the charge of carrying a firearm in the course of a crime of violence won't hold up because the conspiracy didn't rise to a crime of violence, according to legal briefs filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Portland. For example, Joseph O'Shaughnessy's court-appointed lawyer Amy Baggio argues that the conspiracy charge filed against 26 defendants allows for "arbitrary enforcement.'' It accuses the defendants of conspiring to impede federal officers from their duties at the refuge through "force, intimidation or threats.'' The defendants disrupted the work of officers from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and disregarded law enforcement orders to leave the property during the 41-day occupation, prosecutors allege. Leader Ammon Bundy has said he and the others were protesting the return to prison of Harney County ranchers Dwight Hammond Jr. and his son, Steven Hammond, and to demonstrate against federal control of public land. Baggio contends the conspiracy statute, enacted in 1861, fails to define what "force, intimidation or threats'' consist of, and suggests prosecutors are using its vagueness "to quash political dissent against the federal government.'' "The statute fails, however, to provide appropriate limiting language so as to avoid chilling the exercise of constitutionally protected rights, including the very core First Amendment right of gathering together to protest policies and conduct of the federal government,'' Baggio wroteBaggio also filed a motion to order prosecutors to provide more detailed information to support their allegations so defense lawyers can better prepare a defense. For example, the defendants urged the government to identify the officers and employees whose work was impeded at the refuge and what duties were impaired. For another count accusing defendants of possessing firearms in a federal facility, the defense lawyers ask prosecutors to identify the buildings that represent a federal facility. Per C. Olson, David Fry's court-appointed lawyer, submitted a motion to dismiss the charge of carrying firearms in relation to a crime of violence, contending the underlying allegation of federal conspiracy doesn't amount to a violent crime...more

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