Email the author | Follow on Twitter
February 17, 2016 at 6:28 PM, updated February 19, 2016 at 10:09 AM
SHOWDOWN IN BURNS
- Sandy Anderson, one of last 4 refuge holdouts, wasn’t aware of federal orders to leave, her lawyer says
- Grant County sheriff viewed as ‘security leak’ as state seeks investigation
- State licensing board seeks investigation of Grant County sheriff who met militants
- As Oregon standoff raised tensions, Burns found release in the Hilanders
- Oregon Standoff: The Oregonian/OregonLive newsroom produced 356 stories during occupation (Editor’s Notebook)
Ammon Bundy, brother Ryan Bundy, Ryan Payne and Peter Santilli — already indicted in the armed takeover of a federal wildlife refuge in eastern Oregon — now face federal indictment along with Cliven Bundy in the 2014 armed standoff near the Bundy ranch in Nevada.
The indictment charges the four with 16 felonies: one count of conspiring to commit an offense against the United States, one count of conspiring to impede or injure a federal officer, four counts of carrying a firearm in a crime of violence, two counts of assault on a federal officer, two counts of threatening a federal law enforcement officer, three counts of obstructing justice, two counts of interfering with interstate commerce by extortion and one count of interstate travel in aid of extortion.
It also levels five counts of criminal forfeiture against each defendant. If convicted of the offenses, they would have to forfeit property obtained from the proceeds of their crimes, totaling at least $3 million, including cattle at the so-called Bunkerville Allotment and Lake Mead National Recreational Area in Nevada. They also would have to forfeit firearms and ammunition used in the April 12, 2014, standoff with federal authorities.
“The rule of law has been reaffirmed with these charges,” said Nevada’s U.S. Attorney Daniel G. Bogden in a prepared statement. “Persons who use force and violence against federal law enforcement officers who are enforcing court orders and nearly causing catastrophic loss of life or injury to others, will be brought to justice.”
The elder Bundy, 69, of Bunkerville, Nevada, his sons, Ammon E. Bundy, 40, of Emmet, Idaho, and Ryan C. Bundy, 43, of Mesquite, Nevada, as well as Ryan W. Payne, 32, of Anaconda, Montana, and Peter T. Santilli, Jr., 50, of Cincinnati, remain in custody in Portland.
“This indictment sends a resounding message to those who wish to participate in violent acts that our resolve to pursue them and enforce the law remains unwavering,” said Nevada’s FBI Special Agent in Charge Laura Bucheit.
The indictment stems from what federal officials have described as the “massive armed assault” by Cliven Bundy and his co-defendants against federal law enforcement officers who tried to corral about 400 cattle near the Bundy Ranch.
They’re accused of planning, organizing and leading the 2014 assault and recruiting hundreds of others in an armed force to thwart the seizure and removal of Cliven Bundy’s cattle from public lands.
It accuses the elder Bundy of trespassing on the public lands for more than 20 years, refusing to get the legally required permits or pay the required fees to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to keep and graze his cattle on the land.
“Today marks a tremendous step toward ending more than 20 years of law breaking,” said Neil Kornze, director of the Bureau of Land Management. “The nation’s public lands belong to all Americans.”
Cliven Bundy was arrested after he arrived in Portland on Feb. 10 to visit his two jailed sons, who were indicted in the armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Ammon Bundy led the takeover, which began Jan. 2 and lasted 41 days. He said he and his followers were demonstrating against the return to prison of Harney County ranchers Dwight Hammond Jr. and his son, Steve Hammond, and the federal government’s control of public land.
The indictment identifies Cliven Bundy as the “leader, organizer and chief beneficiary” of the conspiracy. Ammon and Ryan Bundy are accused of recruiting followers, interfering with the federal effort to impound the Bundy cattle, threatening and using force against federal officers and trying to extort BLM contractors.
“It’s what we anticipated,” said Ammon Bundy’s lawyer, Mike Arnold. A federal complaint issued last week against Cliven Bundy had referenced four unnamed co-conspirators in the Nevada case. Arnold declined comment on the substance of the charges, saying he hadn’t seen the formal indictment yet.
“It’s important for the public to remember that there is a constitutional presumption of innocence in America,” Arnold said in an email. “A government charge is proof of nothing. That’s what courts and trials are for.”
Payne is accused of organizing armed “protection” for the alleged conspirators in Nevada, and Santilli, an independent broadcaster, is accused of recruiting followers using the Internet.
According to the indictment, Santilli tried to “incite listeners” to travel to the Bundy Ranch for unlawful purposes. It quotes him saying on April 8, 2014, “if this is not the issue right now where we stand and fight to the absolute death there is no other option; the federal government must get out of the state of Nevada…if you’re in Nevada and can legally carry, get weapons out there, o.k…we are going to stand and fight in Clark County, Nevada.”
Santilli’s court-appointed lawyer Thomas Coan has argued in federal court in Portland that his client, a “shock jock,” is being persecuted for his political speech and bravado in his online broadcasts.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Nevada, the maximum penalties for the Nevada-based charges range from five years to 20 years, with $250,000 in fines for each charge.
The maximum sentence is five years for conspiracy to commit an offense against the U.S., six years for conspiracy to impede and injure a federal officer; 20 years for assault on a federal officer; 10 years for threatening a federal law enforcement officer; 10 years for obstruction of justice, 20 years for interfering with interstate commerce by extortion, 20 years for interstate travel in aid of extortion and a five-year minimum for using and carrying a firearm in a crime of violence.
Cliven Bundy is expected to be returned to Nevada to face federal prosecution there. The defendants in the Oregon refuge takeover case are likely to be prosecuted here before facing federal prosecution in Nevada.
Update: Ammon Bundy, from jail, released this statement on Thursday, Feb. 18:
This is Ammon Bundy. I just wanted to give you a statement about the NV indictment: the Bundy Ranch. Again, just to help people understand that this is just a continuation of government trying to protect its own power, government taking land that does not belong to them from the people. This is a continuation of them overreaching–going far beyond their constitutional bounds and showing that they are willing to use the court system to prosecute people that were defending their rights; defending their property. And don’t forget what happened at the Bundy Ranch: that they killed cattle, that they tased people, that they threw women on the ground, that they sicced their dogs on pregnant women, that they gang-beat men to the ground for filming them with their iPad. And that they set up a First Amendment right area and saying that you cannot protest outside those corrals. Don’t forget what happened at the Bundy Ranch and how important this is that we make a stand. Thank you.
— Maxine Bernstein