Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Lawyers present starkly different portraits of refuge occupation in closing arguments

Prosecutor Ethan Knight urged jurors to use their common sense as he framed the federal conspiracy case against Ammon Bundy and six others as strikingly simple: "These defendants took over a wildlife refuge, and it wasn't theirs.'' It's not about land use, he said Tuesday. It's not about their objections to more prison time for Harney County ranchers Dwight Hammond Jr. and Steven Hammond, nor is it about what happened during the 2014 standoff with federal agents in Bunkerville, Nevada. "They decided to pick and choose the rules and laws that apply, and take over property that didn't belong to them,'' Knight said of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. "This space does not belong to these folks, and they treated it as it did,'' Knight said. Ammon Bundy's lawyer Marcus Mumford countered that it's the federal government that doesn't play by the rules, manufactured fear and misinformation in Harney County during the refuge occupation, and overstepped its bounds by charging Bundy with a criminal conspiracy charge more suited for a "mobster.'' Mumford argued that Bundy's intent was to stake claim to the wildlife sanctuary because he felt there was a legitimate dispute regarding the ownership of the land. He had hoped to end up in civil court to argue that the federal government lacked jurisdiction to control the property, his lawyer said. He argued that Bundy didn't enter into any agreement with anyone until Jan. 2, when he proposed taking over the refuge with others at Ye Old Castle restaurant in Burns. He said the "hard stand'' that Bundy referred to while addressing supporters on a snowbank later that day before driving to the refuge amounted to a "peaceful'' but "determined'' stand. He needed to take action that would draw attention to his cause after local and state officials repeatedly ignored his "Redress of Grievance,'' Mumford argued. "Is it illegitimate to tell the government to respect its limits? Is it illegitimate to tell the government to respect the Constitution?'' Mumford questioned, leaning his two arms on a lectern set up in front of the jury as he spoke. "The object and aim of Mr. Bundy was to rectify a wrong. Whatever the effect was of an adverse possession claim – or any other – is not relevant.''...more

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