PORTLAND, Ore. — The Latest on the trial of a group of people who held an armed takeover of a national wildlife refuge in Oregon (all times local):
Ammon Bundy finished his second day of testimony in his federal conspiracy trial, saying he led the occupation of a national wildlife refuge because people needed to take a stand against federal government overreach.
Bundy said he told occupiers to bring guns, because they would otherwise be immediately arrested. If that happened, their message would not get out.
The occupation leader from Emmett, Idaho, said he did not tell anyone about his plan to take over the refuge until the day it happened.
He testified the occupiers wanted to take control of the refuge through the concept of adverse possession and let locals decide how to use the land.
Bundy said the occupiers’ message was getting out. He said a speech by Republican U.S. Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon early in the occupation covered much of what the group had been complaining about, and it encouraged him to continue.
Ammon Bundy testified he went through proper channels before leading an occupation of a national wildlife refuge, and he wasn’t involved in a conspiracy when he arrived in Oregon.
Bundy and six others are charged with conspiring to impede federal workers at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge during the occupation.
Prosecutors contend the conspiracy began two months before the occupation, when Bundy met an Oregon sheriff to discuss the plight of two local ranchers heading to prison.
Bundy said Wednesday a local sheriff protected his family during a 2014 standoff with federal agents at their Nevada ranch, and he figured Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward would help ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond.
But the discussion with the Oregon sheriff got no results, and neither did his efforts to contact elected officials.
Bundy also testified about his religious faith, but Judge Anna Brown stopped him from reading scripture.
The leader of an armed takeover of a national wildlife refuge took the witness stand in his own defense, tearfully telling jurors he was initially reluctant to get involved in the plight of two Oregon ranchers ordered to return to prison.
Ammon Bundy, 41, of Emmett, Idaho, wore blue jail scrubs Tuesday afternoon and had a copy of the U.S. Constitution in his front pocket. He has rejected the option of civilian clothes, contending he’s a political prisoner.
When asked where he lives, he told the court: “Multnomah County Jail, maximum security.”
The testimony quickly got more serious. Bundy testified he knew nothing about ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond until his father, Cliven Bundy, asked if he was aware of their situation.
“I’m afraid what’s happening to them is the same thing that happened to us,” Bundy recalled his father saying, referring to the family’s long fight with the government over federal lands and grazing fees, highlighted by a 2014 armed standoff with federal agents at Cliven Bundy’s ranch near Bunkerville, Nevada.
“I told him, ‘Dad, I can’t fight another battle. We’re doing the best we can to keep our family from going to prison.'” Bundy said.
Bundy said that changed in early November 2015, when he clicked on an article about the Hammonds and became consumed by their case. He told the court he had and “overwhelming feeling it was my duty to get involved and protect this family.”