PORTLAND, Ore. – After seven people who occupied a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon were acquitted on all but one charge Thursday, a juror contacted The Oregonian to explain how the verdict was reached.
Federal officials expressed disappointment while a lawyer in a related Nevada case looked ahead to the next trial with hope.
Juror explains verdict
One of the jurors who acquitted Ammon and Ryan Bundy emailed The Oregonian to say the prosecution failed to prove the fundamental elements of a conspiracy charge.
In his message to The Oregonian/OregonLive, Juror No. 4 said the panel spoke with U.S. District Judge Anna Brown after the verdict and asked why the federal government chose the conspiracy charge when prosecuting those who spent weeks occupying a bird sanctuary in southeast Oregon.
The juror said he learned a possible alternate charge, criminal trespass, wouldn't have brought as serious a potential penalty.
The juror wrote he is baffled by the negative response from observers shocked by the acquittals, saying "don't they know that 'not guilty' does not mean innocent."
He says the jurors were aware their verdict might inspire future lawbreaking, but they had to focus on the charge before them.
The names of the jurors are not public.
Federal officials respond to verdict
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell says she's "profoundly disappointed" by a jury's decision to acquit several key figures in the armed occupation of a national wildlife refuge in Oregon last winter.
In a message Friday to all Interior Department employees, Jewell says she's concerned about the verdict's potential effect on workers and on the effective management of public lands.
She encourages employees to care of themselves and their co-workers, stay vigilant and report any suspicious activity to supervisors and, if appropriate, law enforcement.
Jewell's message notes that she visited the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge after the occupation and found it disheartening to survey the damage.
The occupiers contend they improved the refuge, and law enforcement caused damage during the investigation.
Cliven Bundy’s lawyer hopeful for next trial
A lawyer for Cliven Bundy, the father of two men who led the standoff at a national wildlife refuge in Oregon, says he believes jurors saw through government efforts to brand the occupiers as terrorists.
Joel Hansen, attorney for Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, called the Oregon acquittal of Bundy's sons, Ammon and Ryan, and five others a triumph for liberty against the oppressive U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
Hansen said Friday that he hopes for the same result in the criminal case against the Bundys in a 2014 armed standoff at the father's ranch. It's set for trial in February.
Hansen also heads the Independent American political party in Nevada. He says he sees "seething anger" about how the federal government oversees vast stretches of land in Western states.
He says farmers, ranchers, miners, loggers and Native Americans are being "managed off" public land.
Ammon Bundy’s lawyer’s reaction ends in new court date
Ammon Bundy's lawyer will be back in Oregon next year, this time as the accused.
In a bizarre ending to the trial, Marcus Mumford was wrestled to the ground by U.S. marshals and arrested after repeatedly yelling at a judge to let his client go free. U.S. District Judge Anna Brown said Bundy couldn't leave because he's going to a Nevada jail to face charges there.
The U.S. Marshals Service says Mumford was cited for failure to comply with a federal lawful order and disturbance. He was released with a Jan. 6 date to return to court.
Mumford told reporters he grew up on a farm and is used to rough treatment.