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Ada County judge declines to drop case in Idaho Statehouse trespassing trial

Ammon Bundy and Aaron Von Schmidt were arrested on Aug. 25, 2020 after refusing to leave the Lincoln Auditorium.
Credit: Ada Co. Jail
Ammon Bundy and Aaron Von Schmidt

BOISE, Idaho — A judge on Wednesday shot down a defense motion to throw out the charges against two men accused of trespassing in a hearing room of the Capitol during last summer's special session of the Idaho Legislature.

Aaron Von Schmidt, who is representing himself, and lawyers for Ammon Bundy asked Judge David Manweiler to dismiss the case in the middle of the trial, arguing that prosecutors had not met the burden of proof to move forward.

Bundy and Von Schmidt were arrested on Aug. 25, 2020 after refusing to leave the Lincoln Auditorium, which was ordered cleared after a hearing that had been taking place in that room was moved to another hearing room.

Idaho State Police Sgt. Blake Higley testified earlier in the trial that Speaker of the House Scott Bedke had instructed him to tell the roughly 18 people left in the Lincoln Auditorium to leave. Both Higley and other ISP officers testified that those in the room were repeatedly told to move outside or be arrested for trespassing. 

Ultimately, everyone left except Bundy and Von Schmidt, who were taken into custody. Bundy faces an additional charge of resisting and obstructing. Law enforcement said he went limp and acted like dead weight during the arrest, ignoring orders to stand up and put his hands behind his back. Bundy was ultimately rolled out of the Capitol in a swivel chair and scooped into a patrol car after refusing to walk. 

Von Schmidt seemed to argue either that he had not heard the instructions to leave the Lincoln Auditorium, or that the prosecutors could not prove that he heard that order.

"I was never in the room when they notified me, I was never notified," he said. "The state has not proved that I was notified."

Bundy's lawyers in turn argued that because the Statehouse is a public building, and other areas of the Capitol are open later than the hour the Lincoln Auditorium was ordered closed, trespassing statutes do not apply. 

The defense also questioned the authority of Rep. Scott Bedke to order the room cleared of people, arguing that because the Lincoln Auditorium is used by both members of the Idaho House and the Idaho Senate, Pro Tem Brent Hill would also have to issue that instruction in order to make it valid. 

Bundy's lawyer also argued that because he used "passive resistance" instead of fighting with officers or pulling away, his actions after he was placed under arrest do not rise to the threshold of criminal resisting and obstructing, and that troopers were not delayed in their duties because both Bundy and Von Schmidt were brought to the booking center at the Ada County Courthouse at the same time after being placed in custody.

Manweiler was not convinced by the argument, and rejected the motion to dismiss the case, telling the defendants that it will be up to a jury to decide whether they are guilty or innocent.

"It is unclear what transpired prior or during the meeting, but what is clear based on the testimony so far is that the defendants refused to leave the auditorium after the House meeting was over," Manweiler said.

The prosecution has rested. The trial is set to continue with witnesses from the defense Wednesday afternoon.

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