Jailed since January 26, the Bundy brothers, Ammon and Ryan, are petitioning to be released from jail until the time of their trial on September 7. They are two of the 26 defendants jailed for the 41-day takeover of a wildlife refuge in Harney County, Oregon.
At a hearing Monday, Ammon Bundy testified that he came to Oregon to help the Hammond family, who had been imprisoned for burning pasture land, under the charge of arson.
Bundy said, “We did have every intent to take adverse possession of the refuge… and get the people to reclaim that land.”
The group believed the federal government has no constitutional right to control that land, and said at no time did they receive any formal notice from the FBI to leave. Ammon Bundy said, There never was a standoff. We were willing and open to communicate in every way.”
Federal prosecutor Ethan Knight did concede that was true – they did not order the occupiers to leave, but said they made it clear they did not belong there, and were trying to end it peacefully.
“We didn’t think we’d have to be shot at, and even killed and put away for six months to make this argument,” Ammon said. He thought he and the others would maybe face a criminal trespass allegation, and he accused the government of using excessive force to bring the “frivolous” charges against him and co-defendants.
“We’re bringing these legitimate issues to hand,” Ammon Bundy continued. “We should not be tucked away in a dark cell while we try to answer these issues.”
Prosecutors admitted that they had no proof Ammon Bundy ever carried a gun, but they did find about 50 weapons and more than 6000 rounds of ammunition on the refuge.
“There’s no question in my mind this was an armed occupation under the leadership of these two defendants, among others,” the judge said.
Jones negated their land claim, saying it’s not possible to make such a claim against the federal government. “My ruling is there was no lawful adverse possession available to them,” he said. “They may very well have thought they were within the law. They weren’t.”
Knight argued that the brothers should not be released from jail, saying there’s no guarantee they would return to court. Defense attorney Marcus Mumford asked the judge to release both brothers so they can prepare for their trial.
Authorities revealed at the hearing for the first time that they think Ryan Bundy was plotting a jailbreak in April. They discovered a rope of torn sheets braided together, hidden under his mattress, extra clothes and containers of food. No formal charges were ever filed.
Ryan Bundy, seated beside his standby counsel, read a written statement to the judge. He promised that if he’s released, he’ll return to court. With his wife looking on from the front row of the courtroom gallery along with several of his eight children, he said his six months in jail has “literally wrecked” his life and business. He submitted about 20 letters of support from family and friends.
“I have never been a violent person, but I’m an active and involved citizen and believe in standing up for what I believe is wrong,” he said. “I am not ashamed of what we have done and generally believe we have created no crime.’
“I’m excited to prove our innocence to the world and to this court,” he said. “I will be here gladly for the trial. I will not engage in any new attempts of adverse possession. … My wife and children need me.”
The three-hour hearing was before a packed courtroom, including Ammon’s wife, Lisa Bundy, and Ryan’s wife, Angela Bundy. U.S. District Judge Robert E. Jones promised he will issue a ruling Tuesday morning.
Lisa Bundy was interviewed via phone on the Dennis Michael Lynch UNFILTERED show Tuesday evening. Video of interview below:
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