A jury has found that brothers Ammon and Ryan Bundy were not guilty of conspiring against the government, a surprising end to the high-profile Oregon standoff trial that sparked national debates about public lands and the rights of ranchers in the American west.
The decision, unveiled in federal court in Portland on Thursday, is a blow to the US government, which had aggressively prosecuted the rightwing activists who led an armed takeover of public property to protest American land-use regulations.
The Bundy brothers, who orchestrated a 2 January takeover of the Malheur national wildlife refuge, were acquitted on a number of serious charges, along with five other defendants. Only a day earlier the court dismissed a juror over fears of bias, raising concerns that the trial would drag on for weeks.
“We are just so excited,” Angie Bundy, Ryan’s wife, told the Guardian after the verdict was announced. “We’ve been praying hard, and we knew they hadn’t done anything wrong.”
They illegally took over a federal building, damaged government property, and threatened violence against law enforcement, and they just get to walk?
The whole case was a like a circus side show from the start with all kinds of bizarre demands from the Bundy boys, including asking to be paid a million dollars for being a defendant, and a request for the return of their guns, not to mention that at one point Ryan Bundy tried to break out of prison.
In fact even the end of this trial was insane.
At one point the defendants attorney was tackled to the ground and tazed, for reasons that remain a little unclear.
Ultimately I see this as setting a really bad precedent that is only going to encourage more of these sovereign citizen types to stage protests and take up arms against the federal government, and that can only lead to more people being killed.
For those who are curious there is a Twitter account from an Orgeonian reporter that will bring you right up to speed on all of this.