Prisoners of Conscience in an Unconscionable Prison
by Scott Rohter, August 2016
Webster defines a conspiracy as a secret agreement to perform a wrongful or unlawful act. There are many different kinds of conspiracies, but they all contain two basic elements… They all include an element of secrecy and they all include the intent to do harm. They all begin with a fundamental desire to commit evil for some personal gain. No one has ever been indicted for planning a conspiracy to do good. That is no one until Ammon and Ryan Bundy. They are prisoners of conscience in an unconscionable prison… As attorney Matt Schindler said in his closing argument. “Conspiracies don’t usually result in a prominent member of Congress getting up on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives and giving a speech about the government’s abuse of power. People who engage in conspiracies always do so for some personal gain. I have seen no evidence that anyone who participated in the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge did so for any kind of personal gain.”
Ammon and Ryan Bundy are two of twenty-six defendants charged by the Obama Administration with conspiracy to impede a Federal officer. This charge carries a long prison sentence if they are found guilty. They have already been locked up in an Oregon jail for over six months without a trial even the basic presumption of their innocence has been flagrantly violated by the United States government.. If they are convicted they could be looking at a possible prison sentence of six years or more. It’s an overly severe punishment for merely pointing out to the Federal government that it isn’t following the Constitution with respect to the administration of our nation’s public lands.
The Bundys and their co-defendants who called themselves the Committee for Constitutional Freedom have elevated the issue of the administration of America’s public lands to the national front burner with their peaceful takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Oregon. At least it was peaceful until the FBI and the Oregon State Police opened fire. The occupation of the deserted Refuge lasted for about forty days. It only turned violent when the FBI fired their weapons on the protestors and two Oregon State police officers shot Lavoy Finicum in the back and left him in the snow to die. The protestors never fired a single shot during the entire time they occupied the Refuge. Those were forty days and forty nights that some very faithful patriots voluntarily spent in the wilderness of Oregon away from their homes and their families in order to advance the cause of turning public lands over to State and local control.
Almost 700 million acres of public land in America was confiscated from twelve Western States when they were admitted to the Union. This seizure violates the Equal Footing Principle by which each new State that entered the Union was supposed to be admitted on the same basis as all of the other States. During the administration of Theodore Roosevelt much of this confiscated land was transformed into National Parks and Monuments and put under the control of Congress. The Bundy’s would like to see these lands returned to the States from which they were taken so the people of these States can decide for themselves how to manage their lands. No where in the Constitution does it give the Federal government the power to own such vast amounts of State land… Congress currently administers more than 700 million acres of land in twelve Western States. The amount of land controlled by Congress through two federal bureaucracies (the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management) is larger than the size of most countries. Only twelve countries in the whole world are larger than the amount of land controlled by those two federal agencies.
To charge the Bundys and the other protestors who peacefully, spontaneously, and openly occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge with conspiracy is to give a new meaning to the word conspiracy. It comes from the root word conspire… The dictionary defines conspire as, “To join in a secret agreement to commit a wrongful or unlawful act.” -Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary. The key words are secret and wrongful which means the intent to harm others… The defendants never harmed anyone and they never intended to harm anyone. The only intent to harm others was committed by the FBI and the Oregon State Police when they shot Lavoy Finicum in the back and let him die in the snow. By definition, the defendants are not guilty of a conspiracy. The Government is.
Furthermore the defendants never did anything in secret which is a key element of any conspiracy. Everything the defendants did was out in the open. Every facet of their peaceful act of civil disobedience in the face of the government’s own unlawful act of occupying over 700 million acres of land in twelve Western States was covered by the media. It was broadcast live all around the world. Nothing the defendants did was ever done in secret. Journalists from around the world converged on the little town of Burns, Oregon and covered every single aspect of the occupation from the very beginning to the very end, and that is precisely what the defendants wanted. They didn’t want secrecy. They wanted to shine the light on what the Federal government is doing. They wanted to hold a peaceful event that would focus the attention of the whole nation on the over reaches of the Federal government as it pertains to controlling public land. The national and international news coverage provided by the media was the light of day that the Ammon Bundy wanted to shine on the egregious land use policies of the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service.
Since Ammon and Ryan Bundy didn’t do anything in secret by definition they are not guilty any conspiracy.
Secondly a conspiracy includes the intent to do harm, to commit wrong, or to break the law. Ammon and Ryan Bundy only intended to do good. On the contrary the Federal government is actually breaking the law. It is violating the Constitution by occupying State land. It has been violating the Constitution ever since 1850 when California was forced by Congress to relinquish control over 49% of its land in order to become a State. One hundred and twenty six years later Congress passed and the President signed the Federal Land Policy Management Act of 1976 which further exacerbated the unlawful actions of Congress. The Federal government is breaking the law by violating the Constitution. By definition the President and the members of Congress are actually guilty of a conspiracy.
Nowhere in the Constitution does the Federal government have the power to control 700 million acres of State land. The purposes for which Congress can exercise control over State and private land are all clearly listed in the Constitution and they do not include many of the purposes for which it is now doing so.
A conspiracy always includes the element of secrecy and the intent to do harm. Neither of these elements was ever present nor exhibited by any of the defendants during the entire 41 day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. The fact that some of the defendants had guns on the Refuge doesn’t prove anything. They had a Constitutional right to possess those firearms. The purpose of the law which says that you can’t bring firearms onto a federal facility is for the personal safety of the federal employees who work there, but there were no federal employees working or present at the Refuge during the entire time that the defendants were there.
The fact that none of the defendants ever pointed their guns at anyone or fired a shot at anyone is the real proof that they never intended to harm anyone. All of the shots were fired by the FBI and the Oregon State Police including three shots that went straight into the back of an innocent 55 year old man with thirteen children named Lavoy Finicum. Therefore the government’s claim that Ammon and Ryan Bundy and five other defendants committed a conspiracy is without merit, and they should all be found not guilty.
UPDATE: All seven of the defendants in the first occupation trial of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge including the so called leaders of the conspiracy, Ammon and Ryan Bundy were found not guilty on all thirteen charges as well as on the second count of possessing firearms on a federal facility. It remains to be seen what the Department of Justice will do with the next seven defendants scheduled to go on trial sometime in February on the same conspiracy and Federal firearms charges, or what the government will do with the eleven defendants who already pled guilty under duress while in jail and while being threatened with long jail sentences..