Ammon Bundy to appeal, again seeking delay in trial

The federal appellate court already has dismissed a prior appeal by Ammon Bundy

By Maxine Bernstein
The Oregonian

PORTLAND, Ore.—Ammon Bundy plans to appeal two federal court orders requiring him to remain in custody pending trial.

Bundy's lawyer Marcus Mumford on Monday gave notice to the District Court of Oregon that he will ask the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to hear his appeal immediately, or he'll file an emergency motion to delay the pending Sept. 7 trial until the appellate court can rule on his detention challenge.

Ammon Bundy in Multnomah County Detention Center, where he is being held. (Photo/The Oregonian)
Ammon Bundy in Multnomah County Detention Center, where he is being held. (Photo/The Oregonian)

Earlier this month, Bundy, the leader of the 41-day occupation at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, had argued in court for his release pending trial, and his attorney had sought a delay in trial.

But U.S. District Judges Robert E. Jones denied any pretrial release, and U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown found no grounds to delay trial.

Bundy, 40, is one of 26 defendants indicted on a federal conspiracy charge stemming from the armed takeover of the federal wildlife sanctuary outside of Burns in Harney County. Ten of the 26 defendants have pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge, including several co-defendants who were considered part of Bundy's inner circle.

Ammon Bundy, his brother Ryan Bundy and six others are scheduled to go to trial in the case on Sept. 7. Eight others are set to go to trial on Feb. 14.

In a written ruling July 19, Jones ordered Ammon Bundy and his brother to remain in custody, saying he was concerned they might fail to return to court or recruit others to stage another unlawful standoff if released. The judge found there were no conditions that he could impose to "reasonably assure their appearance in court or the safety of the community" if he were to release them before trial.

The ruling followed a three-hour hearing in which Ammon Bundy took the witness stand. He and his brother argued that they're not violent, were engaged in a peaceful political protest to stake claim to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and were never ordered to leave the refuge. They both said they'd return to court because they're eager to fight the government's indictment at trial.

Prosecutors countered that the Bundys were well aware they had no authority to be at the refuge or permission to stay, and led an armed takeover of the refuge in defiance of law enforcement.

Earlier this month, Mumford had requested a delay in trial, arguing that he'd been unable to view hours of video evidence with his client while Bundy remains in custody and has faced obstacles simply trying to communicate by phone with Bundy. Mumford signed onto the case in May with fellow Utah lawyer J. Morgan Philpot.

But Judge Brown said she couldn't grant Bundy or his brother a delay without a showing that the two, who had initially insisted on a trial starting in April and opposed the court's designation of the case as complex, couldn't prepare for trial by early September.

She said she found it hard to believe that the Bundy brothers couldn't be ready for trial, noting they have repeatedly asserted their innocence and outlined their defense posture for occupying the refuge: that they were acting on their First Amendment rights to protest federal land ownership, demonstrating against the mandatory minimum prison sentences of two Harney County ranchers and asserting their Second Amendment rights to carry firearms in self-defense.

Ammon Bundy joins co-defendant David Fry, who also has filed an appeal with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Fry contends that Judge Jones failed to accurately portray the results of his psychological evaluation, and urged the appeals court to conduct its own review of the mental health evaluation and other records supplied to the court on Fry's behalf.

For example, Fry's lawyer Per C. Olson cited a report from the Multnomah County Detention Center, which said Fry "[c]urrently shows no evidence of disorganized thinking, psychosis or mood disturbances, and has demonstrated stability for most of his custody at MCDC."

The federal appellate court already has dismissed a prior appeal by Ammon Bundy and several co-defendants, who had challenged federal prosecutions brought against them in two different states.

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