In a verdict as bizarre as the incident itself, a federal court jury has acquitted Ammon Bundy and six of his followers on Thursday of conspiracy and weapons charges, according to The New York Times. The six men and one woman had participated in an armed occupation of a U.S. wildlife refuge in Oregon last winter that lasted more than a month. They were protesting federal land policies.
The defendants argued that the 41-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge was a patriotic act of civil disobedience, but prosecutors said the seven individuals used "force and threats of violence" to occupy the reserve and prevent federal employees from doing their jobs, the Times reports. The dispute centers around whether or not the federal government can control federally owned land—the Bundy brothers and their supporters believe they should be able to use the land however they want, while the government and environmentalists disagree.
Supporters of the defendants were thrilled, and some that had gathered handed out American flags and read passages from the U.S. constitution.
Ammon Bundy’s attorney, Marcus R. Mumford, requested Ammon and his brother Ryan be released from custody immediately—but the judge denied the request, because the men still have charges pending against them. Mumford got mad, raised his voice, and demanded the immediate release of his client from federal custody. This caused U.S. marshals to tackle and maybe even taser Mumford before arresting him, the Guardian reports. He was released quickly, but it wasn't the most dignified courtroom look.
“The occupation of the Malheur Reserve did not reflect the Oregon way of respectfully working together to resolve differences, Oregon’s governor, Kate Brown, said in a statement.