Second trial begins in occupation of Oregon wildlife refuge

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By Courtney Sherwood

<span class="articleLocation”>Opening arguments in the trial of four men who
took part in an armed occupation of a U.S. wildlife refuge last
year are scheduled to begin on Tuesday in Oregon, after a jury
previously acquitted seven other occupiers in a stinging defeat
for prosecutors.

Duane Ehmer of Oregon, Jake Ryan of Montana, Darryl Thorn of
Washington state and Jason Patrick of Georgia all face multiple
charges of trespassing, conspiracy to impede federal employees
through intimidation and tampering with vehicles and equipment.

They each face a variety of other criminal counts in the
federal trial in Portland, Oregon.

Patrick, Ryan and Thorn were charged with possessing a
firearm in a federal facility; Ehmer and Ryan face charges of
degradation of government property for allegedly digging
trenches at the wildlife center; and Patrick and Ehmer are
charged with destroying or removing property items.

Authorities have called the 41-day occupation of the Malheur
National Wildlife Refuge, which occurred in early 2016 in rural
eastern Oregon, a lawless scheme to seize federal property by
force. The trial represents an opportunity for U.S. prosecutors
to potentially conclude the criminal case with a victory.

It would be a reversal from their loss last October, when a
jury acquitted anti-government activist Ammon Bundy and six
followers of conspiracy. It was the same charge brought against
all four men in the latest group of defendants to face trial.

Bundy and his supporters cast the armed occupation of the
federal wildlife refuge as a patriotic act of civil disobedience
and have expressed opposition to U.S. government control over
millions of acres of public lands in the West.

Ehmer, Ryan, Thorn and Patrick have pleaded not guilty in
their case. The conspiracy charge brought against all four men
carries a maximum sentence of six years in prison.

Last week, a jury of seven women and five men was seated for
the trial, which is expected to last four weeks.

Fourteen other participants in the occupation pleaded guilty
to various charges.

Ammon Bundy, his brother Ryan and their father Cliven Bundy
are held in federal custody ahead of a trial scheduled to begin
later this year in connection with another armed standoff with
federal officers in 2014 in Nevada.

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