Full pardons for Dwight and Steven Hammond

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President Trump has granted full pardons for Dwight and Steven Hammond, Oregon ranchers imprisoned for arson on federal land.

The Hammonds pleaded guilty in 2012 to two counts of arson on federal land which, according to mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines, should have resulted in five year prison sentences.  The judge in the case however, decided that a five year sentence would “result in a sentence which is grossly disproportionate to the severity of the offenses here,” and instead sentenced Dwight Hammond to three months in prison and Steven Hammond to one year and one day.

The federal government appealed the sentences.  The Ninth Circuit of Appeals remanded the case back to the Oregon US District Court where the original sentence was overturned and the Hammonds were ordered to return to prison to serve the remainder of a five-year sentence.

The Hammonds’ story gained national attention after Ammon and Ryan Bundy and supporters occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Harney County, Oregon  The armed occupation began after a support rally for the Hammonds took place in Burns, Oregon.

The Bundys initially claimed they came to Harney County to protest the Hammonds’ return to federal prison and in fact they had urged Dwight and Steven Hammond not to turn themselves in.  The Hammonds did not support the occupation however, and willingly returned to prison in January 2016.

Oregon Representative Greg Walden (R) recently asked President Trump to pardon the Hammonds.

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Prosecutors have filed a motion requesting judge to reconsider decision to dismiss with prejudice the charges in Bundy case

Katie Aguilera

On February 7, 2018, federal prosecutors filed a motion requesting that the Court reconsider its orders to dismiss with prejudice the superseding indictment against Cliven, Ryan, and Ammon Bundy, and Ryan Payne.

According to the 29-page motion, “the Court erred when it dismissed the indictment with prejudice on the ground that the Government failed to disclose information that could be used only to support non-cognizable and unsupportable defenses, or arguably rebut three alleged overt acts.”  Additionally, it argues, “to the extent the Court’s dismissal with prejudice is predicated on the materiality of the late-disclosed evidence to defendant’s theories of ‘self-defense, provocation, and intimidation,’ it is in error.  Because these theories are not cognizable on the undisputed facts, they cannot form the basis of a Brady violation.”

The prosecution suggests that rather than dismissing all charges, dismissing the counts related to the Court’s interpretation of Brady violations would be a less drastic remedy.  They argue that the dismissal with prejudice “has major ramifications for all public lands law enforcement officers,” and would “encourage the defendants, their supporters, and the public to disrespect the law and the lawful orders of the courts.”

The case against the Bundys and Ryan Payne ended in a mistrial December 20, 2017, and Judge Gloria Navarro dismissed the case with prejudice on January 8, 2018.

In a separate filing, the prosecution asked to dismiss with prejudice all counts in the superseding indictment against the four remaining defendants facing trial for the April, 2014 Nevada standoff.  Those four are Dave and Mel Bundy, Joseph O’Shaughnessy, and Jason Woods.

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Family of Robert “Lavoy” Finicum files wrongful death lawsuit

Katie Aguilera

Two years after Robert “Lavoy” Finicum was shot and killed by Oregon State Police officers on Highway 395 in Harney County on January 26, 2016, the Finicum family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against a slew of defendants.  These include the United States, FBI, BLM, Oregon State Police, Harney County, a number of officials from those agencies, the Center for Biological Diversity, and 100 ‘John Does,’ among others.

The lawsuit was filed Friday, January 26, 2018 by lawyers Lisa Ludwig and J. Morgan Philpot in US District court in Pendleton, Oregon.

The 48-page complaint states, “the murder of LaVoy was plainly unlawful under rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and also…unlawful under other laws of the United States and the laws of the State of Oregon.  It was the result of a brutally deliberate course of action willfully set in place and caused by a small selection of county, state, and federal officials who are named as defendants in this lawsuit.  These defendants were mentally predisposed and committed to using excessive lethal force, to solve a political dispute.”

It goes on to describe the events that led to the shooting of Finicum on January 26, 2016, beginning with the Bunkerville, Nevada standoff in April, 2014.  It claims that Finicum was intentionally targeted because of his association with Cliven Bundy and family, his membership in the Church of Latter-day Saints, and his “political views and statements regarding land rights and federal government overreach—specifically, his consistent political activism and statements that were critical of the BLM.”

The complaint claims that law enforcement and the BLM deliberately mischaracterized Finicum as being a threat to law enforcement and government employees by willfully participating in the “spreading of false and maliciously inaccurate information.”  It goes on to state the BLM and FBI kept an active file on Finicum, and that “Defendant Love [Former BLM employee, Daniel P. Love] and other John Doe defendants fabricated information, edited, omitted, or reported misleading information from this file, and added misleading information to this file, for the purpose of intentionally creating the false impression that LaVoy Finicum was associated with militia and presented a risk of violence to law enforcement…”

This misinformation, according to the lawsuit, “contributed directly to the subsequent shooting death of LaVoy Finicum.”

Also in the complaint are details about the January 2, 2016 occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Harney County, Oregon by Finicum and others.  It states a meeting took place on January 2, 2016, between Ammon Bundy and others, discussing Bundy’s plan to move the protest to the Refuge in an attempt at “adverse possession.”  According to the complaint, this meeting was openly attended by a Harney County deputy sheriff.

The complaint alleges that the defendants worked to control the narrative in order to keep the adverse possession claim out of public discourse.  It states, “these defendants ignored legal advice and counsel that suggested that the appropriate course of action would be legal notice and possible trespass charge—by local law enforcement and local civil court actions.  These same defendants also ignored advice from local legal authorities, that no law had been broken by the attempted adverse possession.”

“Instead, Defendants…willfully decided to fight a public political battle, and demanded that the FBI, BLM, and DOJ take the lead and bring the occupation to a close by force.”

It goes on to point out that there were never any eviction notices or complaints of trespass during the occupation of the Refuge.  Also, that as of January 26, 2016, “there was no criminal complaint, no probable cause affidavit, no federal indictments, or any other formal proceeding to inform—let alone argue—that LaVoy Finicum or any other occupier was being accused of breaking the law.”  This includes the time of the initial January 26, 2016 traffic stop and subsequent roadblock, where Finicum was shot and killed.

The lawsuit claims that Oregon State Police and FBI agents executed a “deadman’s roadblock” in violation of police procedure and the Constitution on January 26, 2016.  It states, “the roadblock had been strategically placed so as to prevent it from being visible until impact was a near certainty for any vehicle traveling at posted speeds.”

The complaint also discusses the actions of FBI agent W. Joseph Astarita during the roadblock, who is currently facing charges for his alleged attempt to cover up the fact that he allegedly fired his weapon twice after Finicum crashed into the snowbank to avoid the roadblock.  It claims that one of these shots resulted in the wounding of Ryan Bundy, who still has a piece of metal in his shoulder that may or may not be a bullet or bullet fragment.

The shooting of Lavoy Finicum was ruled as justified by Oregon officials.  The officers involved stated that Finicum was reaching into his jacket pocket which they say they later found held a loaded pistol.  Video of the shooting shows Finicum exit his truck with his arms up, however, as he moves away from the truck he drops his arms twice, and before he is shot three times, he appears to reach for his side.

Early in the occupation of the Refuge, in an interview, Finicum had said, “I’m not going to end up in prison.  I would rather die than be caged.  And I’ve lived a good life.”

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Judge dismisses case with prejudice in Las Vegas

Judge Gloria Navarro dismissed the case against Cliven, Ryan, and Ammon Bundy and Ryan Payne with prejudice this morning.  The judge cited the Brady violations by the prosecution that led to the trial ending in a mistrial in December as one reason for the dismissal.  This means the defendants cannot be retried for the charges they were indicted for.

Bundy trial in Nevada ends in mistrial

Judge Gloria Navarro declared a mistrial Wednesday morning in the Bundy trial in Las Vegas, Nevada, as a result of her concerns about Brady violations by the prosecution.  Judge Navarro described the violations as “willful” failure to turn six key pieces of evidence over to the defense that would be helpful to their case.

The withheld evidence includes verification of several things the defense has argued contributed to the actions of the defendants during the 2014 armed standoff between the Bundys, their supporters, and Bureau of Land Management and law enforcement officers.  The prosecution has repeatedly denied these things occurred.

One example was documentation of the presence of snipers near the Bundy ranch in the days leading up to the standoff.  The Bundys repeatedly claimed that snipers were there, and this was one reason people, including militia members, came to Bunkerville to support them.  Many claim that when they heard about the snipers, they feared violent action against the Bundys by law enforcement, and came to protect them.

The Bundys themselves have argued that they felt threatened because of the snipers and the aggressive posture of the authorities.  They have said the Bureau of Land Management provoked them and their supporters into the armed standoff that occurred April 12, 2014 in Nevada.  However, according to the judge, the prosecution has insisted there were no snipers present in previous trials.

Judge Navarro cited an “FBI log with entries that said ‘snipers were inserted’ and on standby outside the Bundy home. Three entries in the log mentioned snipers present, Navarro noted. Prosecutors claimed they were unaware of the log at first because it was kept on a thumb drive in a tactical vehicle.”

“The government is still responsible for information from the investigating agency. The FBI chose not to disclose it,” Navarro said.

Another example, an FBI report about a security camera, trained on the Bundy family home in Bunkerville, that was put up and monitored by the FBI.  “The government falsely represented the camera that was on the Bundy house was incidental, not purposeful,” the judge said.

Also included were threat assessments of the Bundys that stated they weren’t considered violent, and documents from the Bureau of Land Management that show the Bundy’s trespassing cattle had caused no harm to the endangered desert tortoises.

As a result of these developments, “a mistrial in this case is the most suitable and only remedy available,” Judge Navarro said.  A new trial may be held in February, but in the meantime, Judge Navarro will decide if it is a mistrial with or without prejudice.  If she rules it is with prejudice, there won’t be another trial for the current charges against Cliven, Ryan, and Ammon Bundy and Ryan Payne.

Ammon Bundy released from prison, Cliven Bundy refuses release, and Ryan Payne granted release pending approval from Oregon judge

In what seems a sudden and surprising reversal of her prior denial of release for the Bundys and Ryan Payne as their trial proceeds in Nevada, Judge Gloria Navarro has granted release from prison for Cliven and Ammon Bundy, and Ryan Payne.  She had previously reversed her decision to deny Ryan Bundy release, allowing him to move to a halfway house on November 13, 2017.

This decision to release the defendants came after a sealed hearing, details of which are still not publicly available.

Ammon Bundy walked out of the courthouse early Thursday with his family to be greeted by a crowd of supporters and the press.

Cliven Bundy has refused the conditions of release, opting to remain in prison.  His attorney, Brett Whipple, stated, “to be released, he would have to agree to conditions.  In his opinion, he’s not willing to take a deal with the government when he hasn’t done anything wrong to begin with…. He’s very principled and he doesn’t want to violate those principals and I respect that.”

Ryan Payne was also granted release, pending approval from Judge Anna Brown in Oregon federal court.  Payne still faces sentencing in Oregon for his role in the 2016 Malheur Wildlife refuge occupation.  A hearing is scheduled for 3:00pm today (Friday) in the Portland federal courthouse.

The trial in Nevada is expected to resume December 11, 2017.

Update, 12/2/2017:  Ryan Payne was released Friday, 12/1/2017.  It looks as though there will be a release hearing for Dave and Mel Bundy, Joseph O’Shaughnessy, and Jason Woods on Monday.  Here are the conditions for release.

 

Rumors of release from custody for Bundys in Las Vegas

Rumors are flying today that Cliven, Ammon, Mel, and Dave Bundy, and Ryan Payne, will be released from custody today as their trial continues in Las Vegas.  Supporters of the Bundys have made Facebook posts such as this one and this one that appear to confirm the rumors.  This information comes after the court room spent the morning in a sealed hearing.

Fox 5 Las Vegas confirmed that Judge Navarro would release the defendants in a tweet this afternoon.

Update 1:36pm: this [that article appears to have been removed] article from Las Vegas Now confirms the Bundys are to be released for the duration of the trial.  It does not mention Ryan Payne.

12/1/2017: The above Las Vegas Now article appears to have been removed and that link no longer works.  Here is an Oregon Live article from 11/29/2017 with more details.