In January, Ammon Bundy and Ryan Bundy made national headlines as antigovernment protesters who took over an Oregon wildlife sanctuary which was owned by the federal government. The Bundy brothers were armed and had assistance from Brian Cavalier, Shawna Cox, Joseph O’Shaughnessy, Ryan Payne, and Peter Santilli. All of them were eventually arrested and charged in federal court with possession of guns at a federal facility and impeding federal employees of a wildlife refuge.
On Thursday, the Bundy brothers and their accomplices were acquitted on all the charges in a Federal District Court. This verdict was rather surprising to many, especially to the federal government. They argued that these protesters used weapons to threaten federal workers and force them to stop working. However, the jury seemed to believe the defendants were just trying to protest and that they never had any intention of harming anyone.
Spectators in the courtroom said there were high tensions in the air. Even defense attorney Marcus R. Mumford, who was Ammon Bundy’s attorney, had become enraged when learning his client wouldn’t be released immediately. Four U.S. Marshals even had to restrain him over his aggression.
As for the Bundy family, they are very happy with the verdict. They are talking about celebrating on their ranch when the Bundy brothers are finally freed. According to the defense attorneys, the prosecution was never able to prove that the defendants conspired to impede the federal workers at the wildlife refuge.
The defendants never denied going to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and occupying it for six weeks. Their purpose was to force the federal government to give the property back to the locals so they could control it. The jury apparently saw this occupation as a protest rather than some vicious criminal act.