The leaders of an armed group who seized a national wildlife refuge in rural Oregon were acquitted Thursday in the 41-day standoff that brought new attention to a long-running dispute over control of federal lands in the U.S. West.
A jury found brothers Ammon and Ryan Bundy not guilty of possessing a firearm in a federal facility and conspiring to impede federal workers from their jobs at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, 300 miles southeast of Portland where the trial took place. Five co-defendants also were tried one or both of the charges.
Despite the acquittal, the Bundys were expected to stand trial in Nevada early next year on charges stemming from another high-profile standoff with federal agents. Authorities rounding up cattle at their father Cliven Bundy’s ranch in 2014 because of unpaid grazing fees released the animals as they faced armed protesters.
The armed occupiers were allowed to come and go for several weeks as authorities tried to avoid bloodshed seen in past standoffs.
The Bundys and other key figures were arrested in a Jan. 26 traffic stop outside the refuge that ended with police fatally shooting Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, an occupation spokesman. Most occupiers left after his death, but four holdouts remained until Feb. 11, when they surrendered after a lengthy negotiation.
At trial, the case was seemingly open-and-shut. There was no dispute the group seized the refuge, established armed patrols and vetted those who visited.
Federal prosecutors took two weeks to present their case, finishing with a display of more than 30 guns seized after the standoff. An FBI agent testified that 16,636 live rounds and nearly 1,700 spent casings were found.
Bundy testified in his defense, spending three days amplifying his belief that government overreach is destroying Western communities that rely on the land.
Read more: FoxNews