“Ammon and Ryan Bundy have been found not guilty of conspiracy. Their five co-defendants Jeff Banta, Shawna Cox, David Fry, Kenneth Medenbach and Neil Wampler have all been found not guilty as well.
Jurors were unable to reach a verdict on Ryan Bundy’s theft of government property charge.
The jury returned its verdict after some six weeks of testimony followed by less than six hours deliberations, and the last minute replacement of a juror after an allegation surfaced that he was biased.
The jury was instructed to disregard their previous work and to re-consider the evidence
The charges stem from the 41-day armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns in eastern Oregon’s high desert. The armed protest began Jan. 2 and ended when the final four occupiers surrendered to the FBI on Feb. 11.
Prosecutors initially charged Ammon Bundy, his brother Ryan Bundy, and 24 others with conspiracy to prevent Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish and Wildlife employees from doing their jobs at the wildlife refuge in Harney County. Some defendants named in the indictment faced weapons charges for carrying firearms in a federal facility, as well as theft of government property.
Only seven defendants went to trial in September. Others have pleaded guilty or are scheduled to go to trial in February 2017.
Through the government’s case, prosecutors attempted to show the jury evidence about when the alleged conspiracy began, as well as how the occupation unfolded and ultimately ended.
The government relied heavily on testimony from law enforcement, including Harney County Sheriff David Ward, as well as dozens of FBI agents who responded to the occupation or processed evidence at the Malheur refuge after the occupation ended.
“At the end of the day, there is an element of common sense that demonstrates the guilt of these defendants,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Ethan Knight said during his closing arguments during the trial. “These defendants took over a wildlife refuge and it wasn’t theirs.”
Conversely, the defense sought to make its case about a political protest – one about protesting the federal government’s ownership and management of public lands.
“The people have to insist that the government is not our master; they are our servants,” Ryan Bundy said during his closing statement to the jury.”