Indictment means 16 people in wildlife refuge takeover could face trial

COURTESY OF YOUTUBE - A defiant Sean Anderson brandished a rifle and shouted into a camera Jan. 27 during a live YouTube broadcast by Defendyourbase, as the remaining militants holding out at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge prepared for an expected attack (which never came). Anderson and three other holdouts face federal charges for their part in the four-week standoff.Four holdouts stuck in a cold, muddy camp on a Harney County federal wildlife refuge now face the same federal charge as a dozen other militants involved in the four-week refuge takeover.

David Fry, Sean Anderson, Sandy Anderson and Jeff Banta, who were left behind at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Jan. 26 when nearly a dozen other militants fled in the night ahead of a rumored law enforcement attack, have been charged with conspiracy to impede federal officials through the use of force or threats.

The charge carries a possible six-year prison sentence if convicted, and a possible fine.

The three-page indictment levels the same charge at Ammon Bundy, Ryan Bundy, Ryan Payne and other leaders of the Jan. 2 takeover of the wildlife refuge. The Bundy brothers and several other leaders of the group calling itself Citizens for Constitutional Freedom are in Multnomah County Detention Center awaiting trial in Oregon's U.S. District Court.

Ammon BundyThe Bundys and several others were taken into custody during a Jan. 26 traffic stop on Highway 395, about 20 miles north of Burns, as they were traveling in two vehicles to a community meeting in John Day. During the stop, 54-year-old Robert "LaVoy" Finicum was shot to death by Oregon State Police when he refused orders to surrender.

Attorneys protest federal move

A federal indictment filed by prosecutors under seal Wednesday, Feb. 3, was released to the public Thursday morning, Feb. 4. It includes 11 occupiers who already had been arrested and Kenneth Medenbach of Crescent, Ore., who was taken into custody Jan. 15 and charged with driving a stolen U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service truck from the refuge to a Burns grocery store. He was the first person arrested in the wildlife refuge takeover.

The new indictment came after a federal grand jury considered evidence, heard testimony and found probable cause for the people in custody to face trial on the charge.

Previously, the 11 who had been jailed were held under what's known as a criminal complaint — which did not require a grand jury. It was a temporary legal maneuver to hold people in jail. Under federal rules, prosecutors would have had to make their case in public hearing — one scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 2, before the indictment was filed under court seal.

Because prosecutors made their case in secret to a grand jury, defense attorneys will not have a chance to cross-examine the prosecution witnesses until later in the case. Several defense attorneys showed up in court Tuesday to protest the government's maneuver.

The 11 who have appeared in federal court under the criminal complaint include Ammon and Ryan Bundy, Dylan Anderson, Brian Cavalier, Shawna Cox (who was released pending trial), Duane Ehmer, Joseph O'Shaughnessy, Jason Patrick, Ryan Payne, Jon Ritzheimer (who was taken into custody in Arizona) and Peter Santilli.

Cut off communication

David FryOn Wednesday, FBI officials cut off cell phone service to the four remaining holdouts camped at a corner of the refuge site. During the past 10 days, the four had used their personal phones to talk with supporters and give interviews to news organizations and Internet talk shows. On Wednesday, FBI officials said the group was given a cell phone that connected only to negotiators trying to end the standoff.

FBI and other law enforcement agencies have set up roadblocks near the wildlife refuge about 30 miles south of Burns. Officers and FBI agents have blocked the refuge entrance for more than a week, hoping to coax the four holdouts to surrender. The four repeatedly rejected the idea, saying they would not leave and demanded pardons for anyone facing federal charges in the standoff.

Reporter Kevin Harden contributed to this story.

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