Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Refuge Occupier Ryan Payne Explains Why He Wants To Reverse Guilty Plea

When Ryan Payne took a plea deal in July in the case against the occupiers of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, it was an important win for the prosecution: Payne was considered one of the strategic leaders of the 41-day occupation. But earlier this month, Payne asked the court to reverse his plea from guilty to not guilty. Payne, 33, is an electrician and Army Veteran from Anaconda, Montana, who has been characterized as a tactical leader in the occupation. Prosecutors say he and Ammon Bundy went to Harney County in November and December and met with Sheriff Dave Ward to present their "redress of grievances." Prosecutors also said Payne and Bundy demanded that Ward provide a safe haven for ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond, to prevent them from having to report to federal prison. The plea deal Payne originally struck with prosecutors recommended he spend somewhere between 41 and 51 months in prison. He was facing a conspiracy charge that carries a maximum of six years in prison and a $250,000 fine. In addition to conspiracy and weapons charges related to the Oregon occupation, Payne also faces a slew of criminal counts tied to the 2014 standoff in Bunkerville, Nevada. He hasn’t entered a plea for those charges yet. Payne agreed to answer OPB's questions by phone from the Southern Nevada Detention Center, where he is being held without bail. Payne said that he didn’t have much time to reflect upon and consider the Oregon plea deal, and that he was under "duress and pressure" from the government. "I succumbed to that duress and pressure," he said. "And I was able to regather my wit, mostly through my faith in the Creator … that the people will be the righteous judges." In his Oct. 11 motion to withdraw the plea, Payne’s attorney Rich Federico argued the foundation of the Oregon deal was an assumption that Payne and the government would also reach a deal in Nevada. That apparently fell through...more

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