Friday, February 23, 2018

Prosecutors to seek nearly 3 1/2-year sentence for refuge occupier Ryan Payne

By Maxine Bernstein

Federal prosecutors next week will seek a nearly 31/2-year sentence for Oregon refuge occupier Ryan Payne, the longest prison term yet for a defendant convicted in the armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. They described Payne as a central figure who helped orchestrate the armed occupation of the federal wildlife sanctuary, described by Assistant U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Barrow as "one of the most extensive criminal activities in Oregon history.'' The government submitted to the court a 91-page exhibit of recordings from weekly board meetings of the militia network Payne co-founded, Operation Mutual Defense, held in October, November and December 2015, the months preceding the refuge seizure. The board spoke of potential missions, including targeting radical Islam, intervening in the resettling of refugees in Montana and elsewhere, and attempting to free a federal prisoner by staging a "dynamic entry'' into a prison by shielding militiamen within protesters. While the mutual defense board formally voted on Nov. 29, 2015, not to send militia to Harney County unless the Hammonds asked for help, Payne headed to Burns and acted with Ammon Bundy and other supporters to try to encourage a "public uprising'' of local Harney County residents. Lisa Hay, Oregon's federal public defender, will push for a two-year sentence for Payne, now 34 years old. She argues anything more would be out of line with other defendants' punishments, which range from probation to a 21-month sentence given last week to Jason Patrick. Although Payne accepts his leadership role and recognizes his possession of firearms at the refuge was intimidating and perceived as threatening, his intent was not to cause chaos or harm but to protect the refuge occupiers, Hay wrote...more

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