Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Refuge manager, fish biologist tell jurors how they felt scared, violated during occupation; Prosecutors closing argument

The manager of the Malheur National Wildife Refuge and its former fish biologist returned to the witness stand Tuesday to testify about the fears they felt just before and during the armed takeover of the federal bird sanctuary. Manager Chad Karges, who was aware Ammon Bundy and followers were in the Burns area in late November and December 2015, said he placed loaded guns at every door of his home "just because of the threats I had seen'' involving Bundy and his family's standoff with federal agents in Bunkerville, Nevada, in 2014. After Christmas that year, Karges told his children and grandchildren not to venture into Burns. Karges said he didn't feel comfortable reporting to work at the refuge after the seizure by Bundy and his followers on Jan. 2, 2016, because of the presence of armed guards in the refuge tower and on its premises as he'd seen in media reports. Karges said he also received a law enforcement briefing five days after the takeover and learned of threats made by the occupiers. He ordered his staff to evacuate from Harney County, he said...Assistant U.S. Attorney Ethan Knight then delivered his closing argument, which ran about an hour and 25 minutes. "This case is about four defendants who went too far,'' Knight said. They embraced occupation leader Ammon Bundy's call to take a hard stand in the protest of the federal government and its prosecution of two Harney County ranchers, Dwight Hammond Jr. and son Steven Hammond. The Hammonds were ordered to return to federal prison on Jan. 4, 2016, to serve out five-year sentences for setting fire to public land. But the defendants "pushed the limits of civil society,'' Knight argued. He advised jurors once again not to search for evidence of a formal agreement or contract between the defendants, but to evaluate all the evidence, statements by the defendants and their alleged co-conspirators and social media posts -- and infer what occurred...more

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