When a group of gun-toting men broke into a middle-of-nowhere federal bird refuge in Southeastern Oregon this past January, they called it a political protest. Ammon Bundy – the protesters' cowboy hat and flannel jacket wearing leader – told reporters that the people were taking a stand against the tyrannical, overreaching federal government. The Bundy brothers – none of them actual ranchers – claimed it's illegal for the Feds to own land.
After 41 days of excavating ancient Indian artifacts and opening the boxes of dildos mailed to them, one of the occupation's only ranchers was killed by police and the rest went to jail. Over the past seven months, many of the 26 defendants have been released on bail and several have pleaded guilty. But the occupation's key figures remain behind bars in Portland and will go to trial next week. If some of these highlights from the last few months in court are any indication of what's in store for the trial, it should be a doozy.
Supporter scoffs at Native American right to land
Michele Fiore, an actress-turned-Nevada Assemblywoman (perhaps best known for the "Walk the Talk" pin-up calendar featuring her with various firearms), visited the refuge to aid occupiers during the 41-day standoff. In mid-February she appeared in court to show her support. In an impromptu press conference on the steps of Portland's federal courthouse, Fiore took questions from the media. When a New York Times reporter asked Fiore if the real rightful owner of the land was, in fact, the Burns Paiute tribe, she rolled her eyes. "Oh my, my," she snarled, flipping her hair. "Why don't we all just go back to England in that case? For real. Is there another question?"
Flag-wearing occupier threatens liberals
If minor defendant Duane Ehmer's American flag shirts weren't enough to push him into the spotlight recently, his Facebook posts certainly have. At home in Irrigon, Oregon, Ehmer posted that "it's hunting season against liberal Democrats" and urged protesters to show up at the courthouse bearing arms. A judge slapped his wrist over his posts in late August.
Ryan Bundy calls himself an idiot
Though the Oregon standoff's defendants represent different aspects of right-wing extremism – from white supremacy to militias – defendants Ryan Bundy and Kenneth Medenbach have employed a classic sovereign-citizen tactic throughout pre-trial hearings: file motions that make no sense. Bundy, representing himself, declared in July that he is "an idiot of the 'Legal Society'" not subject to the courts. His argument was rejected. He also unsuccessfully attempted to subpoena Oregon Gov. Kate Brown.
Bundy lawyer quotes Western movie
In a last-minute attempt to get the court to throw out his indictment altogether – a request hastily rejected by prosecutors – Ammon Bundy's legal team (which includes former Utah State Rep. J. Morgan Philpot) squabbled with prosecutors over their dismissiveness. In a motion, Bundy's team argued prosecutors were acting like the federales from the 1948 film The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. They quoted:
"BANDIT: We are federales. You know, the mounted police.
"DOBBS: If you are the police, where are your badges?
"BANDIT: Badges? We ain't got no badges. We don't need no badges. I don't have to show you any stinking badges!"
Seats in the courtroom are limited. No word yet if the U.S. Marshals will be handing out popcorn.
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