Unlike the first trial, in which jurors found Oregon wildlife refuge occupiers not guilty, today jurors in the second trial rendered a different fate for four different defendants of the peaceful protest. A fate decided by a trial riddled with questionable and appealable actions of an unethical judge who is actively been pursued for removal from the bench for months prior to the trial.
Actions including allegations the judge actively worked with federal prosecutors on strategy and denying the defense the right to call many of its witnesses. Actions of shutting down and admonishing witness testimonies that clearly contradicted charges made by federal prosecutors.
And a ruling making herself sole judge and jury in deciding lesser charges that were added just weeks before the trial and denying defendants the right to be tried by a jury of their peers. A ruling made on Feb. 2, leaving defense attorneys little time to prepare an adequate defense since the judge has stated she will decide those charges shortly after a verdict. Which begs the questions of not if an appeal will be filed, but rather when and will any action be taken against Federal Judge Anna J. Brown?
Unlike the first trial, which lasted nearly five weeks, the second Oregon standoff trial was wrapped up in two weeks. With closing arguments conducted earlier this week, the jury took three days to arrive at split verdicts against Jason Patrick, Darryl Thorn, Jake Ryan and Duane Ehmer.
Shortly before 4pm the jury delivered the verdicts. Thorn and Patrick were found guilty “conspiring to impede federal workers from doing their jobs through force, intimidation or force,” while Thorn was also found guilty of possessing a firearm in a federal building. Ryan and Ehmer were found guilty of lesser charges of destruction of government property.
The defense conceded the two had dug small trenches to crawl in out of fear of rumored FBI violence against the occupiers, one validated by the shooting death of AZ rancher LaVoy Finacum by law enforcement agents, even though Finacum stood in compliance with both hands over his head.
Theatrically speaking, the second trial was not as intense as the first. However, there were moments of explosive testimony revealing corrupt tactics implemented by the FBI during the ranchers’ peaceful takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge more than a year ago. There were eyewitness accounts that directly contradicted the claims and charges brought against the defendants.
Which makes one wonder why the jury reached the verdicts delivered?
The protest garnered national attention as thousands of western ranching families watched in disbelief at the MSM frenzy fueled by government officials who escalated and sensationalized the event by misrepresenting the facts to the public; recklessly mislabeling these average American ranchers as “anti-government militants” and “homegrown terrorists.”
A protest that involved top FBI and Dept. Of Justice brass as well as US Congressmen and former President Obama. A peaceful protest that ended in a henchman style hit job on Finacum; a voice of reason that was resonating with thousands of Americans, not just western ranchers. A man who repeatedly talked of respect for government and a patriot’s love of the Constitution who was referred to as “the virus,” by a US Congressman.
Yet, accounts and reports coming out of the MSM and government spokespeople were not ALL factual as many close to the protest know. Witnesses took the stand over the past two weeks, disputing much of assistant US Attorney Geoffrey Barrow’s claims and accusations in opening statements that were previously reported here.
Two witnesses in particular shook the prosecutor’s case to the very core, including the testimony of one government witness, FBI special agent, Ronnie Walker.
As reported here on Feb. 28, Walker admitted under oath paid FBI informants who infiltrated the protest were ordered and authorized to conduct illegal activities while at the refuge. The riveting testimony brought into question the credibility of now “retired” FBI Special Agent Supervisor, Greg Bretzing, who was in charge of the Oregon standoff.
Not only did Walker’s testimony directly conflict with Bretzing’s earlier testimony, but it also raises questions about the FBI’s handling of the protest. Who ordered drone surveillance and the roadblocks that illegally trapped Finacum and others at a blind curve in a remote area where no cell phone coverage was available? Who authorized paid “informants” to break the law? How far up the chain of command does the corrupt and unethical actions of the FBI go? And who authorized the misrepresentations and flat out lies being fed to the press during the media frenzy at the time of the occupation?
Walker’s testimony was only the beginning of the prosecution’s case falling apart in open court. According to a OregonLive online report, another witness, a FBI paid “informant,” shattered all charges that protesters had “conspired” and continued to “conspire” after taking over the refuge. Testimony that also disputed prosecutor charges the protesters were violent and worked together to impede government officials from performing their duties at the refuge.
Terri Linnell who resides in San Diego, CA and previously worked for the FBI, testified she was paid $3,000 plus traveling and other expenses to infiltrate the protest and report back to agents what she heard. She said she went to the refuge and volunteered to cook, all the while never knowing or being informed she was in violation of the law, according to charges against the defendants. Likewise, agents knew of her activities at the refuge including having a firearm in her possession, another charge brought against protesters.
Linnell confirmed other witness accounts that at no time did the protesters threaten, intimidate or impede any federal employee from entering and working on the site. To the contrary they were invited along with anyone else who wanted to come to the refuge.
“No, everybody was allowed there – even had anti-protesters,” she responded to defense attorney Marc Friedman’s inquiry if she knew or heard of any plans to impede federal workers.
Having shared a room with defendant Thorn and others, Linnell had inside access to information and plans. She continually testified never were there any discussion or plans to threaten anyone or commit acts of violence. To the contrary she described an open, friendly and welcoming environment in which many people stopped by just to visit and meet with “a bunch of good people” as she described the protesters.
However, Linnell infuriated prosecutors and brought the ire of Judge Brown when she delved into talking about the inaccurate reports coming out of FBI mouthpieces and carried by the Mainstream media. Oregonian reporter Maxine Bernstein who has covered the trial since the beginning wrote:
“As she talked about how some people thought from media accounts that the refuge occupiers ‘were going to start a war,’ prosecutors stood to object that her answers were beyond the scope of defense questions. ‘Stop! Stop!,” yelled U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown. The judge admonished her to simply answer the questions.”
As a first hand witness working for the FBI does it not stand to reason Linnell should be allowed to testify to the facts of what actually happened including testimony of irresponsible and un-factual accounts being reported by the media and fueled by government officials?
Is it not relevant government officials may have intentionally misled the press and lied to the American people to the facts on the ground inside of the refuge? Facts the FBI was receiving from their own 15 informants, like Linnell, who were on the “inside” of the protest and reporting to agents nearly every day; a truth covered up by the FBI. Does the jury not have a right to know these facts which directly conflict with accounts presented by Barrow in opening arguments and FBI statements?
Barrow continued to press Linnell during cross examination, attempting to get something out of the witness that would help his case, but to no avail. When asked by Barrow if Linnell had told FBI agents there were discussions about taking over more federal property, she was quick to deny those reports.
“I did not say that,” she answered. “That’s why I had a serious problem with these reports. These were wrong reports.”
Linnell attempted to explain she told FBI agents there were other people who visited the refuge and asked the ranchers to come to their county to educate people on land rights. Again the judge immediately cut Linnell off. Why?
Judges are suppose to be impartial, but by her own actions, Judge Brown showed little impartiality during the course of the trial, repeatedly impeding the defense and eyewitness accounts that prove the prosecution’s case has no legal merits and should have never been pursued.
There is also proof Judge Brown met privately with jurors after the first trial to find out why they did not convict the defendants; an unprecedented move seen by the defense as a way to assist the prosecution in future standoff trials. Is this not at the very least unethical if not right out illegal? Was there a joining of minds between Brown and prosecutors after her “private” meeting with jurors? Did, as many believe, Brown assist federal prosecutors with a strategy laid out in clandestine meetings to ensure some type of a conviction in the second trial regardless if the current jury came back with a not guilty verdict as well?
Brown ruled that she, and only she, will make a decision in the misdemeanor charges filed only weeks before the trial was set to begin. According to a Feb. 2 Associated Press report, Brown made the decision to separate those with lesser charges and then refused defendants their right to a jury trial. Since when does a defendant not have the right to have a jury of peers decide a case?
She stated there is no conflict in her overseeing and ruling on the charges even though she is the same judge over both standoff trials. The defense attorney for Ehmer objected to Brown’s rulings in court filings; requesting another judge to decide the minor charges, while noting Brown’s meeting with previous jurors.
Attorney Michele Kohler cites in Elmer’s court filings, “(Brown) not only answered questions the jurors had, but also discussed the merits of the case with specific reference to potential misdemeanor offenses that could have been used by the government.”
The same lesser charges like “trespassing” and “destruction of government property” Brown discussed with jurors, while noting jurors’ feedback, which were later added against the second trial defendants after the “private” meeting.
With little advance notice, Brown at one point forced defense attorneys to cut their witnesses from 18 to eight who were lined up to testify last Thursday. The defense was left scrambling at the last minute in an effort to determine which witnesses to put on the stand. Does the defense not have a right to call whatever witnesses it deems necessary to defend their clients? Does this not call into question Brown’s legal judgment, one more unethical action which reveals a deep bias against the defendants?
“The judge won’t let the truth get to the jury,” Ehmer posted on his Facebook page. “Won’t let us have but a small fraction of the testimony.”
What about Linnell’s testimony concerning the facts of her own inside observations is inadmissible to the point the judge stops her from talking and issues an admonishment? Is it because her testimony directly contradicted prosecutor allegations and FBI statements or something else?
Perhaps the fact two carloads of protestors were headed to a meeting in a neighboring county at the request of the county sheriff to speak to more than 300 people when they ran into FBI roadblocks. Cell phone video taken from inside Finacum’s vehicle reveals Finacum repeatedly told agents who aimed gun lasers at his head, he and the others were on their way to meet up with the sheriff and invited the agents to follow them.
Instead of taking the peaceful resolution to join Finacum at the sheriff’s office, agents, unprovoked, instead fired at the vehicle forcing Finacum to flee to protect not only himself, but other passengers, including a young 18-year-old girl. Not far down the road, hidden behind a blind curve, another roadblock was already in place with snipers lurking in the woods waiting to take their shot. And take their shot they did as Finacum stood in submission with his hands in the air. They achieved their goal: “silence the virus.”
Are these the facts the Judge feared Linnell would testify to when bringing up the fateful meeting in the other county? Facts the jury never heard in this trial. Facts that should have been allowed since it calls into question the actions and credibility of the FBI and more specifically the now “retired” chief Bretzing. And the MSM stays “silent” about the fact the FBI is now under investigation for the death of Finacum.
Another defense witness was called in to discredit Blaine Cooper’s testimony for the prosecution. Cooper was charged in the protest, but cut a deal to “co-operate” in exchange for getting himself a lighter sentence. However, his testimony was quickly repudiated by Cooper’s own father who called his son a known “liar” during defense questioning.
Unlike the first trial none of the defendants opted to take the stand instead relying on Ammon Bundy to testify on their behalf. Bundy who remains jailed for over a year now while facing charges from the Nevada standoff, was flown in from Henderson, NV. Bundy also was charged in the Oregon standoff, but was one of the defendants in the first trial found not guilty on all accounts.
The facts in this case were clear as was the case and the same facts in the first trial. There was never any “conspiracy”, or any threats, intimidation or impediment of federal workers. Witness after witness testified to this even referring the occupation as being like a “family reunion” in which all were invited and offered a hot meal including law enforcement officers and federal employees. A person cannot be convicted of “trespassing” on public land but it is most certainly assured Brown in her vindictive bias will pile on more punishment.
The only illegal activities were those of paid “informants” ordered by the FBI, and the only violence committed was at the hands of government officials. And yet federal prosecutors and agents have wasted the taxpayers money and destroyed the lives of good people based on a political disagreement; one in which the federal government seeks to use to silence all Americans permanently.
Where is the redress for that? When will THEY be held accountable for unethical illegal behavior and corruption?
And where is the “fourth” branch of government; the one given First Amendment protection to keep in check those holding the power in the other three branches? Where is the Mainstream Media now the truth was being revealed daily for two weeks? Silent. But the MSM will come out of hiding know with their peacock feathers fully found to announce the guilty verdict.
The Oregon protest was just that, a legally executed stand by average everyday Americans exercising their rights under the Constitution to assemble peaceably to force an overreaching and corrupt federal government to listen to their grievances.
Grievances that have been voiced for years through usual legal channels starting with local government officials and even taken as high as congressional offices but with no redress, only silence coming from death ears.
A group of frustrated cowboys who many for generations have battled harsh climates to toil the western lands; going about their daily business of providing the food on every American table and raising their families. Generations of peaceful, patriotic country folk with a great love for the land, until an out of control corrupt bullying government agency decided it and only it was the rule of law, the BLM.
The jury in the first trial got it right when they found the seven defendants not guilty. So we all have to ask ourselves how did this jury get it so wrong? And how much more will their verdict embolden an already out of control and corrupt federal authority who will use this opportunity to squash even more rights affecting every American citizen not only the good people who are the western ranching families. God Bless them and ball they have endured and are about to endure.
As a footnote:
This writer would like to correct two errors that were published in a Feb. 28 editorial about the current Oregon standoff trial. A defendant, Montana native Jake Ryan, was unintentionally identified as Jake Payne. Another defendant charged in the Oregon protest is Ryan Payne who is not on trial but settled his case with a plea agreement, one he is now seeking to void.
The editorial also stated five defendants were acquitted in the first trial when in actuality there were seven who were acquitted. This writer apologizes for any confusion created as result of the errors.