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Bundy tells judge jail circumstances are 'miserable,' asks for release

Ammon Bundy and one of his followers were arrested on a bench warrant Monday after failing to appear for trial.
Credit: Ada County Jail
Ammon Bundy

BOISE, Idaho — The leader of an Idaho anti-government group arrested for failing to show up for court told a judge Tuesday that circumstances in the jail were "miserable" and that being in custody was keeping him from getting a fair shot at defending himself.

Ammon Bundy, 42, was arrested outside the courthouse Monday along with 42-year-old Aaron Von Schmidt. Both men were set for jury trials that morning on trespassing and resisting arrest charges. 

Bundy and Schmidt went to the Ada County Courthouse with a group of their supporters, but refused to put on a face mask as required by order of the Idaho Supreme Court to go inside the courthouse. The men stood outside instead and missed their court appearances, prompting Judge David Manweiler to enter failures to appear for both Bundy and Von Schmidt, and issue bench warrants for their arrest. 

Ada County Sheriff's Office deputies then arrested both men, despite the efforts of some of their supporters, who officials say physically clashed with the deputies and tried to keep them from taking Bundy and Von Schmidt into custody.

Prosecutor Whitney Welsh asked for Bundy's bond on the bench warrant to remain set at $10,000.

"Prior to the arrest yesterday on the failure to appear, Mr. Bundy shouted at the Ada County Sheriff's Office to arrest Judge Manweiler for violating the law and his rights," she said.

Welsh said that after the men were arrested, 12-15 members of Bundy's group showed up at Manweiler's home to protest. The demonstrators yelled, shouted obscenities, rang his doorbell, and wrote "tyrant," "mask-hole," and "dismiss the case" in front of his home with chalk, she said.

"They told a neighbor they were just getting started, and then they would return the next day for round two," she said.

Welsh added that the demonstrators are believed to have gone to the judge's home at Bundy's direction.

Bundy, who appeared in court via video live-stream from the jail, disputed that he had yelled that Manweiler should be arrested. He also claimed there was "new evidence" in the trespassing case against him and predicted it would be dismissed.

"There is just no way I can defend myself in this position," Bundy said, telling the judge that he had been held in a holding cell at the jail and not allowed to make phone calls or speak to a lawyer.

"The circumstances are pretty miserable here, I just ask that you consider my desire, I think my right, to a fair trial," he said. "You know, I've never threatened anybody and I never asked anybody to threaten anybody, it's not what I do."

The Ada County Sheriff's Office, which staffs the jail, told KTVB that prior to his initial arraignment, Bundy had "totally refused" to participate in the booking process, including fingerprinting and having a mugshot taken. Once he agreed to comply with the process and was fully booked into the jail, he was allowed to use the phone, according to the sheriff's office. 

Bundy's codefendant, Von Schmidt, also told the judge that he wanted to be released, saying that he had dealt with a "time crunch" in preparing for his trial and had questions about his case that had not been answered. 

"It wasn't in a reasonable time for us to address the witnesses in our situation," he said. "It just wasn't fair." 

Judge Adam Kimball told both men he was leaving their bail set at $10,000. Kimball also ordered the defendants to adhere to a number of pretrial restrictions if they are able to make that bond, including attending all court appearances, notifying the court of any change in address, wearing a court-approved face mask while inside the courthouse, and complying with the jail booking process. 

The cases against Bundy and Schmidt both stem from an Aug. 25 arrest, in which the pair refused to leave the Lincoln Auditorium in the Idaho Statehouse after a hearing was moved to a different committee room.

The new trial date for both men is set for May 10. 

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