Judge Restricts Workers’ Testimony on Oregon Standoff Fear

Employees will again be barred from testifying about any fear they felt during last winter's armed occupation

By Molly Priddy

PORTLAND, Ore. — Federal wildlife employees will again be barred from testifying about any fear they felt during last winter’s armed occupation of a national bird sanctuary in southeastern Oregon.

U.S. District Judge Anna Brown prevented such testimony during a trial last fall in which occupation leader Ammon Bundy and six co-defendants were acquitted of conspiring to impede workers from doing their jobs at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge during the 41-day protest.

Four Bundy followers are being tried on the same felony charge this month. Assistant U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Barrow asked the judge Tuesday to reconsider and allow the workers to testify about their fears. Brown declined.

“I don’t for a minute doubt there was fear and negative emotions by these employees, but the charge is not ‘did defendants intend to raise distress,’ but intend to impede,” Brown said, according to The Oregonian newspaper/OregonLive.

At the first trial, refuge employees testified about how their supervisors told them not to return to work in January 2016 once Bundy and his armed supporters seized the refuge to oppose federal control of lands in the West and the imprisonment of two Oregon ranchers convicted of setting fires.

The workers also described the disheveled state of their offices when they returned after the occupation. But they could not talk about their emotional state.

In contrast, Bundy and several defendants testified at length about their state of mind and why they took over the refuge.

Jury selection begins Feb. 14, and opening statements are tentatively scheduled to begin a week later.

The four defendants are Duane Ehmer of Irrigon, Oregon; Jason Patrick of Bonaire, Georgia; Darryl Thorn of Marysville, Washington; and Jake Ryan of Plains, Montana.

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