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Refuge occupier blasts 'works of the devil,' wants $666 billion in counterclaim

TRIBUNE PHOTO: ROB KERR - Shawna Cox of Kanab, Utah, third from left holding a laptop, has filed an eight-page counterclaim blasting federal prosecutors who arrested militants involved in the 41-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.Harney County occupier Shawna Cox is firing back at federal prosecutors in her legal fight, claiming she was arrested in late January because she and others tried to expose government misdeeds.

Cox, one of more than two dozen militants who occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge for 41 days, claimed in an eight-page federal court filing that she and others are being “maliciously prosecuted” because they wanted to hold officials accountable for “subversive activities against the people of the United States.”

Her Feb. 15 filing, intended as an “affirmative defense” and “notice of criminal counter suit,” was added Wednesday to the massive court docket in the wildlife refuge case. It could fall flat, however. A federal judge allowed Cox’s document to be filed, but directed that she work with defense attorney Tiffany Harris on her pending federal criminal case.

Cox is not an attorney. She filed the document on her own. Her argument is similar to others in the "sovereign citizen" movement who claim the federal government has no right to own property in the states, and that federal officials have no jurisdiction in the states. The Southern Poverty Law Center estimates that about 100,000 people in the United State adhere to sovereign citizen beliefs.

Many of the people who occupied the wildlife refuge believed federal and FBI officials were agents of foreign powers trying to take Harney County ranchers' land.

'Works of the devil'

Shawna Cox was released from federal custody in early February, so she could return to her Utah home.Cox, 59, of Kanab, Utah, was taken into custody during a Jan. 26 traffic stop on Highway 395 about 20 miles north of Burns. She was in the backseat of a truck driven by Robert “LaVoy” Finicum traveling to a community meeting in John Day. Finicum, 54, was shot to death by Oregon State Police during the traffic stop when he refused to surrender, and was apparently reaching for a 9mm handgun in his jacket.

Ryan Bundy, a passenger in Finicum’s truck, was wounded in the incident.

Also taken into custody during the traffic stop were Ammon Bundy, Brian Cavalier, Ryan Payne and Joseph O’Shaughnessy. Peter Santilli, an Internet radio talk show host who broadcast nearly every day from the occupation in Burns, was taken into custody during Tuesday evening, Jan. 26, while trying to persuade law enforcement officers to allow a convoy to take women and children out of the wildlife refuge compound 30 miles south of Burns. Jason S. Patrick of Bonaire, Ga., Duane Leo Ehmer of Irrigon and Dylan Wade Anderson of Provo, Utah, were arrested Wednesday, Jan. 27. Each faces a charge of conspiracy to impede federal officers, a felony.

Jon Ritzheimer, one of the occupation’s leaders, had returned to his home in suburban Phoenix, Ariz., and turned himself in to police. He is facing the same conspiracy charges in Arizona’s federal court.

Nearly a dozen more people have been arrested in connection with the refuge occupation and standoff. Those include Bunkerville, Nev., rancher Cliven Bundy — father of Ammon and Ryan Bundy — who was taken into custody Feb. 10 when he stepped off a plane at Portland International Airport. He apparently planned to travel to Harney County.

The standoff ended during a couple of tense morning hours Feb. 11, when the last remaining four holdouts surrendered one by one.

Cox was among the group of armed militants who took control of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Jan. 2, following a protest in Burns blasted federal and state officials for the sentencing of Harney County ranchers Dwight Hammond Jr. and his son, Steven Hammond. Ammon Bundy and a handful of others calling themselves the Citizens for Constitutional Freedom went to the refuge compound, which was closed for the New Year’s weekend, and set up what they called the Harney County Resource Center.

She was released Feb. 4 and allowed to return to her Utah home, where she could be tracked by a GPS backlet.

In her filing, Cox claims federal officials lack jurisdiction to hold her and the others on any charges, that her free-speech and free-assembly rights have been violated and that the court should “enter an anti-harassment and protection order” for herself and dozens of others in the case.

Cox wrote that she and others "have suffered damages from the works of the devil in excess of "$666,666,666,666.66." She also wrote that she might add more charges and additional damages to the filing.

Cox listed as defendants “federal employees” and more than 1,000 “John and Jane Does,” legal terms for unidentified people whose names could be added to the complaint in the future.