Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Ken Medenbach testifies that the Bundys are his 'heroes,' and he's exactly where he wants to be

Ken Medenbach, the lone Oregon resident on trial on a federal conspiracy charge stemming from the seizure of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, told jurors Tuesday he's exactly where he wants to be, preaching about his views on land rights in a federal courtroom. He called the Bundys his "heroes'' for the "bold move'' they made in the 2014 standoff with federal officers near patriarch Cliven Bundy's ranch near Bunkerville, Nevada. Medenbach noted that he's been fighting "the same things they were fighting.'' "The federal government doesn't have authority to own land in the states,'' Medenbach said. And like Ammon Bundy, Medenbach added, "I've been called by a higher power to do what I'm doing.'' Medenbach, 63, has pleaded not guilty to conspiring to use threats, intimidation or force to prevent federal employees from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife and U.S. Bureau of Land Management employees from doing their work during the occupation of the federal bird sanctuary in eastern Oregon. He's also pleaded not guilty to theft of government property: a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service pickup truck that he admitted on the stand to driving to pick up groceries at the Safeway in Burns on Jan. 15, before his arrest. "It didn't matter to me being arrested because I'm where I want to be right now,'' Medenbach said. "I've been waiting 21 years to be where I'm at right now.'' His standby counsel Matthew Schindler led Medenbach through his long history of challenging the government's control of land, starting with his 1988 construction of some cabins and an outhouse on five acres of land he bought for $700 northeast of Crescent, without obtaining any permits from Klamath County. Earlier Tuesday, one of Ammon Bundy's defense lawyers called a cousin of Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward in an attempt to impeach the sheriff's earlier testimony. Rodney Glen Cooper, of Veneta, Oregon, testified that he visited the sheriff twice in January "to find out what is going on out there.'' Ward's grandmother and Cooper's father are siblings, he told The Oregonian/OregonLive after court. On his first visit with Ward on Jan. 18, he said he inquired about the concept of being a "constitutional sheriff.'' After that visit, Cooper said he visited the refuge, and met Ryan Bundy. During a second visit with Ward, Cooper said the sheriff shared with him his feelings about Ammon Bundy and Ryan Bundy. Cooper characterized Ward's position like this: "He said he was about 90 percent with what they were doing, and if they could have been on different circumstances, they could have been good friends.'' "On Jan. 25, did Sheriff Ward tell you he did not feel threatened by the Bundys?'' defense attorney J. Morgan Philpot asked. "Yes, he did,'' Cooper answered. Ward had previously testified during the government's case that Ammon Bundy had made repeated ultimatums to him that if he didn't prevent the Hammond ranchers from returning to federal prison, there would be extreme civil unrest in his county...more

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