Ammon Bundy — one of the seven people on trial for leading the armed occupation of an Oregon wildlife refuge for 41 days — wore his prison coveralls to court on Thursday, which he said is a form of protest against being held as a “political prisoner.”
“Ammon Bundy is wearing his jail clothes in court today,” wrote KOIN Channel 6 reporter Trevor Ault on Twitter. “Prepared statement said he was showing himself as the ‘political prisoner’ he is.”
According to KOIN, Bundy, his brother Ryan and five others are on trial in federal court in Portland, OR on charges that they conspired to impede federal employees from doing their jobs when they led an armed occupation of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge earlier this year.
All 7 defendants entered pleas of not guilty to the court, however, Wednesday’s testimony from local Sheriff Dave Ward would appear to give the lie to that assertion.
Ward told the court that he received threats from defendant Neil Wampler via email that said if he did not surrender the sanctuary to the occupiers, he would see his “county invaded by the most determined and organized — and armed — citizens alive in this country.”
In a follow-up email, Wampler wrote, “We ain’t playin’!”
The trial began Tuesday and is expected to possibly run into November. The Bundy brothers first came to national attention when they aided their father, rancher Cliven Bundy, in organizing an armed standoff with Bureau of Land Management officials over Cliven’s refusal to pay years of grazing fees for his cattle.
Ammon and Ryan — who is acting as his own attorney in the case — say they spontaneously decided to travel from Nevada to Oregon to join the group who took over the Malheur refuge on Jan. 2 and refused to leave. The brothers maintain that they were merely joining local protesters in protecting local land rights from an overbearing federal government and did nothing to break the law.
Prosecutors said Tuesday that the defendants are not on trial for their anti-government beliefs, but for unlawfully occupying land that belongs to the government and for not allowing government employees to proceed with their jobs.