Ammon and Ryan Bundy, leaders of an armed militia group that took over a national wildlife refuge in Oregon earlier this year, were acquitted Thursday of federal conspiracy and gun charges relating to the 41-day standoff with federal authorities. The Bundys were among the 26 charged for their participation in the standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and the pair never disputed that they commandeered the refuge and established armed patrols.
The Bundys, the sons of anti-government, Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, claimed the takeover was an act of civil disobedience against what they broadly consider government overreach in its administration of vast swaths of public lands in the western U.S. Dozens of armed anti-government militia-types joined the Bundys holed up on the refuge, while federal authorities largely allowed events to play out in an effort to avoid bloodshed. The Bundys were arrested three-and-a-half weeks into the takeover during a traffic stop where one militia member was killed.
“Federal prosecutors took two weeks to present their case, finishing with a display of more than 30 guns seized after the standoff,” the Associated Press reports. “An FBI agent testified that 16,636 live rounds and nearly 1,700 spent casings were found.” In the end, however, federal prosecutors were not able to show that the Bundys were explicitly “conspiring to impede federal workers from their jobs,” which is the foundation of the conspiracy charge.
Seven other members of the militia are scheduled to go to trial in February and 11 others have already pleaded guilty.