The Fickle and Whimsical Nature of the Law
By Scott Rohter, March 2017
The occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is over. It ended back in January of 2016 with the tragic shooting death (murder) of Lavoy Finicum. It also ended with the arrest of Ammon and Ryan Bundy and about two dozen other protestors who were at the Refuge with them. The occupation of the Refuge by the protestors is long over, but the occupation of half of the State of Oregon by the Federal government still continues to this day. In fact the occupation of 700 million acres of land in twelve Western States goes on unabated to this day.
It is a fact that half of the land in twelve western states is owned, managed, and controlled by Congress. through two federal agencies… the Bureau of Land Management and the United States Forest Service. This amounts to about twenty-five percent of all the land in the whole country. It is a direct violation of the United States Constitution and it is an even bigger violation of the Equal Footing Principle by which all new States were supposed to be admitted to the Union on the same basis as all of the other States. (See map below)
The defendants in the occupation trial of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge were divided into two groups by the judge. That should have never been allowed. It gave the government two chances to try the protestors on the exact same charges, albeit using different defendants. Ammon and Ryan Bundy and five other defendants went on trial first in September of 2016. After a six week long trial they were all found NOT GUILTY on all counts in the indictment which included a felony charge of conspiracy to impede federal officials and a felony charge of possessing firearms on a Federal facility.
Then the next group of seven defendants was scheduled to go on trial in February 2017. After three of them accepted a plea deal in which the government agreed to drop all of the more serious felony charges if they pled guilty to one misdemeanor count of trespass, the remaining four defendants went on trial. One of them was Darryl Thorn. The government offered him the same plea, but he opted not to take it. Instead he chose to stand trial with Jake Ryan, Duane Ehmer, and Jason Patrick who were not offered a plea deal. Those were the last four defendants to go on trial in Oregon over the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
The second trial resulted in a very different outcome than the first trial… Without the presense of Ammon Bundy in shackles and prison scrubs, and Ryan Bundy acting as his own attorney, the final four defendants were all convicted of at least one felony.
Jason Patrick and Darryl Thorn were convicted of participating in a conspiracy. In addition Mr. Thorn was also convicted of violating federal firearms statutes which prohibit carrying any firearms onto federal property. Duane Ehmer and Jake Ryan were convicted of “depredation of government property” for digging a hole with an excavator which carries an even longer prison sentence than the conspiracy charge does.
Now we have a bitter irony. The leaders of the so called conspiracy were all found not guilty of any conspiracy but two of their followers were found guilty of a conspiracy by a different jury. This is the fickle and whimsical nature of the law.