The trial of the Bundy brothers and their co-defendants in the Oregon standoff began Tuesday, with opening arguments completed.

Ammon Bundy, Ryan Bundy, and their five co-defendants who are charged with are charged with “conspiring to impede federal employees at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

Ammon Bundy and others conspired to orchestrate the armed takeover of an Oregon wildlife refuge and made threats to the local sheriff weeks before the occupation began in early January, federal prosecutors told jurors here on Tuesday.

But Bundy’s lawyer said their actions were meant to hold the federal government accountable, and that Mr. Bundy threatened no one.

Ammon Bundy, who is on trial for heading up the occupation, is being represented by two Utah attorneys, Marcus M. Mumford and J. Morgan Philpot.  They argued on his behalf that Ammon Bundy’s intent was not to “interfere with a nature study,” but to return the land to the people, because “the federal government refuses to respect the limits of its powers.”

Ammon Bundy’s own words from a January 2 video were used against him, to argue that they weren’t being prosecuted for holding a simple political protest, but for leading an armed occupation.

Ryan Bundy is representing himself, and spoke directly to the jurors.  He showed a photo of himself standing beside his wife and children, said he was a family man who raises cattle, melon and children,” and his a member of the Mormon church.     With a Constitution booklet in his hand, he said he believes governments are designed by God, for man’s benefit, and that human law “should not suppress the freedom of the soul.”

The Oregonian reported that about a dozen people were lined up outside the courthouse early Tuesday morning, and the courtroom was packed with relatives and supporters of the defendants, as well as media.

According to
U.S. District Judge Anna L. Brown promised that on Wednesday, “we start with real evidence.”

  • U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown signaled to jurors at the end of Tuesday’s opening statements, “Tomorrow, we start with real evidence.”
  • The government plans to call Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward as its first witness Wednesday, expecting that a prosecutor’s direct examination of Ward will last about 90 minutes.
  • The second witness will be sheriff’s Lt. Brian Needham, estimated to be on the witness stand under direct questioning by the government for 15 to 20 minutes, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ethan Knight told the court.
  • The third government witness, Chad Karges, director of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, is expected to be questioned by a prosecutor for about three hours, Knight said.

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