Jury acquits defendants for armed standoff on tribal territory in Oregon

A view of the Steens Mountains from the Buena Vista Overlook located in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. Photo by Jeff Sorn / Oregon Department of Transportation

Seven people who took part in an armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon were acquitted by an all-White jury on Thursday.

The defendants -- a group that included anti-government ringleaders Ammon Bundy and his brother, Ryan -- were cleared of federal conspiracy charges in connection with the 41-day standoff that drew international attention, according to news reports. The not guilty verdicts came after a month-long trial that saw the removal of one juror earlier this week for alleged bias.

“This is off-the-charts unbelievable,” Matthew Schindler, an attorney for one of the defendants, told The Seattle Times. “I had been telling my client you can count on being convicted. You don’t walk into a federal court and win a case like this. It just doesn’t happen.”

The Bundy brothers, along with their father, Clive, still face charges in connection with a different standoff on federal land in Nevada in 2014. Their acquittals could pose problems for that case as it moves forward and for additional Malheur defendants who are due to go to trial next year.

The land in and around the refuge was set aside as a 1.2 million-acre reservation for the Burns Paiute Tribe in 1872. But the federal government kicked the tribe off and forced its members to march to reservations in Washington following the Bannock War in 1878.

Many returned to Oregon only to find that their homeland was gone. They lived on the edges of society in present-day Burns, where a new but much smaller reservation was eventually established.

The Indian Claims Commission determined that the tribe should have been compensated for the theft of the reservation. A settlement put just $743.20 in the hands of each tribal member in 1969, The Oregonian reported earlier this year. Some members want to reopen the judgment, believing they were cheated.

Read More on the Story:
Oregon standoff defendants found not guilty in 'unbelievable, truly astonishing' verdict (The Oregonian 10/27)
How the jury reached its verdicts in the Oregon standoff case (The Oregonian 10/27)
In Burns, Oregon standoff verdict deepens divides (The Oregonian 10/27)
All Seven Defendants Found Not Guilty In Refuge Occupation Trial (Oregon Public Broadcasting 10/27)
Jury acquits 7 defendants in Malheur wildlife-refuge standoff (The Seattle Times 10/27)
Jury acquits Ammon Bundy, six others for standoff at Oregon wildlife refuge (AP 10/27)
Bundy Brothers Acquitted in Takeover of Oregon Wildlife Refuge (The New York Times 10/28)
Q&A: What to know about the Oregon ranching standoff case (AP 10/28)
‘Off the charts unbelievable’: Will acquittal of Oregon refuge occupiers embolden extremists, militias? (The Washington Post 10/28)

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