The Oregon trial of seven men who were arrested for rallying in a national bird sanctuary earlier this year has been underway for about a month and it's already taken some very unusual turns. While one man insisted during questioning this week that God called upon him to protest the government during the weeks-long armed occupation of the federal wildlife refuge, another decided to represent himself and flirt with a witness on the stand.
Ryan Bundy, who’s brother Ammon Bundy was the leader of the 41-day rally held Burns, Oregon, is acting as his own lawyer during the trial, KATU reported. He questioned his wife, Angela Bundy, Tuesday on the stand and the two were very casual with one another during questioning. At one point, he asked her how she was doing. "Missing you," she replied. Angela Bundy also testified that her husband had no intentions on occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge back in January as she only packed him one change of clothes and expected him home within 48 hours of his initial departure.
Another defendant named Kenneth Medenbach took the stand Tuesday and stated that he had a long history of protesting against land management laws and his participation in the rally was a reflection of his cause. “It didn’t bother me to be arrested because I’m where I want to be right now,” Medenbach said. “Like the Bundys, I’ve been called by a higher power … we all know this is what God called us to do.”
He said he had “been waiting for 21 years to get where I am right now.”
Testimony was expected to continue Thursday and Friday from several witnesses. U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown has already warned defense attorneys to not produce witnesses who will not give similar testimonies and repeat information, Oregon Live reported Tuesday.
"It's been established,'' Brown said. "We need new information ... I have a duty to not waste the jury's time ... You're going to lose these people. It's the same message and they got it.''
Ammon Bundy, who led the deadlock that lasted from Jan. 2, through Feb. 11 at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, is expected to take the stand again Thursday. While testifying last week, he denied being the leader of the rally. He told the court that he teaches "core principles" to people but lets them interpret it for themselves.
Bundy reportedly started the protest with the goal to stand up against the federal government’s authority over public lands following the arrest of Dwight and Steven Hammond. The father and son were arrested on charges of arson for setting fire to public lands back in 2012. Initially given a light sentence, a different judge later resentenced the men to serve the mandatory minimum of five years, a sentence that they began serving on Jan. 4, 2016, sparking Bundy's protest.
After petitioning to protect the Hammonds from prison and what he saw as excessive control from the federal government on property within state borders, Bundy said he felt the need for a “hard stand.” He and armed followers proceeded to occupy the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, which is near the Hammond family ranch. While Bundy was arrested on Jan. 26 for a traffic stop, four followers remained at the site until Feb. 11.
In all, authorities charged 26 protesters with conspiring to impede federal workers from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from doing their jobs at the refuge through intimidation threats or force. Some protestors also face firearm and theft charges. So far, one person has had their charges dropped, 11 have pleaded guilty and out of the 14 defendants that are left, half are awaiting trial while the other half are expected to have their trial in February.
Although Brown has cleared her calendar up until the end of November, a verdict for the current trial is expected to be handed down before Halloween.