Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Prosecutor: No formal agreement to conspire in refuge takeover, but a 'meeting of the minds'
A federal prosecutor told jurors that they won't hear evidence of a formal meeting, written contract or verbal agreement between four men on trial for allegedly conspiring to impede federal employees from carrying out their work at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Instead, they'll be able to infer through the words and actions of defendants Jason Patrick, Duane Ehmer, Jake Ryan and Darryl Thorn that they used the federal property as their own last winter as a "platform for their cause,'' Assistant U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Barrow said. They raided the refuge headquarters Jan. 2, 2016, going building to building with guns and converted the refuge offices and bunkhouse into their own living quarters and meeting space, while keeping armed watch at the property's front gates and fire tower to control access to and from the site, Barrow said. "The defendants assumed complete control over the refuge, '' Barrow told 12 jurors and four alternates. "Circumstantial evidence will show there was a meeting of the minds to keep employees from doing their jobs.'' Defense lawyers countered that the defendants on trial weren't leaders or organizers, but followers who were drawn to the refuge for a smattering of reasons. They argued there was no organized conspiracy, but a spontaneous gathering of like-minded people. Ehmer thought the occupation was some sort of a "sit in,'' and that the refuge employees were on "seasonal layoffs until March,'' his lawyer told jurors. Thorn's lawyer characterized him as a "bit player swept up in a larger show,'' who was drawn by the Bundys' interpretation of the U.S. Constitution that he shared and "a desire to belong, to be part of something greater than himself.'' Ryan's lawyer described him as "just a theater kid from the country with strong beliefs'' about limited government who felt compelled to help out once Ammon Bundy issued a call for support...more