The jury reached a verdict in the case of the standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Preserve in Oregon yesterday, and the result was somewhat out of the ordinary.
A jury Thursday delivered a stunning across-the-board acquittal to the leaders and participants in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation and a remarkable blow to the federal government as it tries to tamp down a national movement led by a Nevada family to open public lands to ranchers, miners and loggers.
The verdicts finding Ammon Bundy, older brother Ryan Bundy and five others not guilty of a federal conspiracy drew elation from defense attorneys who spent five weeks arguing that the armed takeover amounted to a time-honored tradition of First Amendment protest and civil disobedience.
“Maybe this is a lesson that that’s not the way to engage with these people, who want nothing more than just to be heard, just to have a forum to talk about the injustices like the case of the Hammonds and the treatment of ranchers,” said Lisa Ludwig, standby counsel for Ryan Bundy.
The high-profile case riveted the state and drew national and international attention to the isolated bird sanctuary in rural eastern Oregon. The jury’s decision proved no less dramatic and sets up a showdown in the next stage of the land-rights movement.
I wrote at the American Spectator about the underlying cause of the standoff here – what the Bundys and the other five men involved in the standoff did wasn’t the most brilliant idea under the sun, but at the end of the day it was no more criminal than the takeover of university administrative offices by campus leftist moonbats in the 1960’s; rather than serve time in prison, those people generally were put in charge of the universities a few years later to the detriment of American education. And what they were protesting was governmental abuse so thorough and outrageous that far more stringent civil disobedience could have been warranted…
The BLM, and in particular its regional office in Oregon, has engaged in a long pattern of attempting to squeeze private landowners off their property and gobbling up real estate adjacent to federal holdings. In the case of the Malheur bird preserve, this has included abusing water management in order to flood private lands and make them useless, so the owners in desperation agree to sell. But the Hammond family have been a holdout among local ranchers, to such an extent that their property is surrounded by federal lands and they have dealt with the BLM blockading roads leading in and out of their ranch.
In that environment, it’s sadly less than surprising that the BLM and the federal government threw the book at the Hammonds over a pair of fire-related incidents in 2001 and 2006 and found a way to put them in prison. Hammond père and fils were actually convicted under a significantly inappropriate federal anti-terrorism statute carrying a five-year minimum sentence, and the trial judge was so offended by the idea of five years for what they actually did that he refused to impose it — giving Dwight a three-month sentence and Steven a year.
The judge, Michael Hogan, was so lenient likely out of a sense of shame that he allowed the prosecution to go forward in the first place. For the “terrorism” in question was a pair of incidents where the Hammonds started fires on their own land only to have those fires cross into the bird preserve and touch small amounts of federal grassland. In both cases the fires were put out by the Hammonds themselves; the 2006 fire was actually lit as a back-burn intended to protect Hammond property and their ranch-house from a wildfire started by lightning strikes, and it was successful in doing so.
Hogan also ran a fairly kangaroo-court style proceeding, giving the prosecutors six days to present their case and the defense just one. A jury confused and exhausted by the trial acquitted the defendants on most of the 19 charges. The judge brokered a plea agreement in the case, in which the Hammonds agreed not to appeal the case and also — this is key — to agree to a right of first refusal for the BLM to buy their property.
Dwight and Steven Hammond served the sentences Hogan imposed, and went home to the ranch in an effort to keep it alive.
And meanwhile, Oregon’s horrifically unqualified U.S. Attorney at the time, a leftist moonbat named Amanda Marshall — raised in a commune and reared on Grateful Dead concerts and socialism and plucked for the job out of a child advocacy sinecure in Oregon’s state bureaucracy in a pristine example of runaway affirmative action by the Obama administration — refused to accept the sentences or the plea agreement. The Department of Justice actually appealed the case and managed to get a ruling from the 9thCircuit Court of Appeals imposing the mandatory five-year sentence. And in stupidity typical of the 9thCircus, the court reasoned that violating the spirit of the principle of double jeopardy (not to mention the plea agreement) was justified in this case, as Jacob Sullum notes, because other more absurd results based on mandatory minimum sentences were not overturned.
In the meantime Marshall had to resign as U.S. Attorney amid allegations that she was stalking an employee in her office that she might or might not have forced into a sexual relationship before he broke it off (reports about the resignation surely leave that impression).
The jurors knew enough about the case, and were presented the evidence of the defendants’ state of mind, to come to a conclusion that their object was protest, not criminality. The mens rea required for a conviction was not present, it’s reasonable to assume the jury believed.
But this is not acceptable to the leftist lynch mob which assembled on the Internet; they wanted blood, and now they don’t have it. And they’re angry.
Mostly, it seems, because the seven defendants were white.
— Occupy Wall Street (@OccupyWallStNYC) October 28, 2016
We’re OK with the acquittal, though we wouldn’t have been upset with guilty verdicts either. What the seven men in question did was, on its face, a violation of the law. The jury acquitted them not because they didn’t think the seven did it, but because they believed the feds had it coming after what they did to the Hammonds. That’s a perfectly valid case of jury nullification, and it ought to give pause to the cranks on social media who think that the rule of law guarantees a certain result they find preferable.
It does not. What the rule of law guarantees in a case like this is that a defendant would be tried by a jury of his peers under the rules of evidence with the right to competent counsel, and nothing more. The result is the result. In this case it was an acquittal for all seven men.
And the case in Oregon has nothing whatsoever to do with another standoff, the one in North Dakota where a number of Sioux staged a protest over an oil pipeline going through tribal land and had their occupation broken up with mace and rather unfriendly policemen. There’s been a stupid equivalence made, on the basis that white guys get acquitted while Native Americans get maced.
Get back to us when any of those protesters in North Dakota are actually charged with a crime after being released from jail – the seven men in Oregon, and 17 others whose trials are set for February, were arrested and in fact another man was shot dead by a federal agent – and then we’ll see what a jury would do with them. Because there would be your apples-to-apples comparison. The guess is if any of the Sioux even went to trial they’d likely end up acquitted just like the men in Oregon did.
It’s a stupid comparison.
But stupid comparisons in an effort to make the case for a Democrat interpretation of the concept of the rule of law are to be expected. These people, after all, won’t even entertain the idea that their presidential nominee should face a trial by a jury of her peers for what are manifest, sundry violations of federal law with respect to both her e-mails and the corruption of the Clinton Foundation. The public has been denied the rule of law in her case when the Obama Justice Department refused to empanel a grand jury and instead conducted ex parte conversations with Hillary Clinton’s husband in advance of shutting down the investigation. This after granting immunity to five of her minions, which effectively insures that no one will ever face the music over one of the most egregious and scandalous abuses of political power and the security of government information in modern times.
Those same people spluttering in fury over the acquittal of the seven men in Oregon won’t even hear of Hillary’s “privilege.” And that shows just how much credibility they have. They’re more than happy with the idea of a two-tiered justice system, so long as they get to decide who’s in which tier.
We have a word for that. The word is “tyranny,” and the Left is covered in it.
– And by the way, there’s a new American Spectator column which went up this morning. It’s on the prospect that Congress, buffaloed by Harry Reid, will agree to provide funds to bail out the Flint, Michigan water supply. Which is something you would much rather not have happen given the poor precedent that would set.
This is a municipal incompetence issue. It’s not a natural disaster. The Democrats want to equate it with such for a number of obvious reasons.
First, if Democrat incompetence where governance is concerned can be equated with an act of God, the public can be conditioned to simply accept that the devolution of vibrant communities into Detroits, Flints, Baltimores, Chicagos, and St. Louises is something that cannot be avoided and must be remedied by the tax dollars of those who live in the suburbs. Increasingly, this is becoming difficult to do at the state level; one of the negative parts of ruling over a ruin is the population tends to decrease relative to neighboring jurisdictions full of actual taxpayers that are not ruins, and the big-city machines come to find it more difficult to dominate at the statehouse.
So you bring the fight to Washington, where it’s clear Democrats play the game better. Thanks to their domination of the media, of course, and the Republicans’ abject fear of the consequences of victory in a legislative fight over a bailout. As we know, all shutdowns are not only the fault of the GOP but evidence of bad faith with the American people to boot.
Which brings us to the second part — and this is where it gets ugly.
Because if the Republicans allow themselves to be buffaloed on Flint, and if they don’t, the price will be that no disaster aid will come to red states like West Virginia and Louisiana, then the door will be open for that weaponized governmental failure to pay off.
The Flint bailout will become a precedent. And following that bailout, every mismanaged and dysfunctional Democrat-run municipal infrastructure agency in America will line up at the federal trough for its own free redemption. Bad roads? Bad sewage system? Bad mass transit? Jail in need of repairs? Call your congressman, and have him hold up the next spending bill for your bailout.
Passing a highway bill, or a water resources bill, or a disaster recovery appropriation, in the future will become impossible without a run on the federal bank by Democrat-mismanaged municipalities looking for free swag to bail out their incompetence. This is a big deal, because it’s (1) the way that the national debt goes from $20 trillion to $100 trillion, and (2) how local governments plundered by criminal politicians can survive as dependents of the feds and can effectively appropriate suburban tax dollars.
This might seem in the weeds, but it’s one of the most important and potentially disastrous issues on the table. Copious thanks to Reid, crooked receptacle of excrement that he is, for putting it there.
– Oh, did we mention Hillary and corruption? Well, let us also share this…
Hillary Clinton headlined a major fundraiser for a political action committee shortly before the group steered nearly $500,000 to the wife of the FBI official who oversaw the Clinton email investigation, DailyMail.com has learned.
Clinton’s ties to the Common Good VA – a Virginia state PAC run by Clinton’s long-time friend and advisor Terry McAuliffe, its governor – came under scrutiny this week after the Wall Street Journal reported that the group donated heavily to the state senate campaign of Jill McCabe.
Her husband Andrew McCabe led the FBI investigation into Clinton’s emails.
Andrew McCabe, now the deputy director of the FBI, told the Wall Street Journal that he complied with federal ethics rules and was not promoted to lead the Clinton probe until months after his wife’s unsuccessful state senate bid ended.
Clinton was the feature speaker at a June 26, 2015 ticketed joint fundraiser for the Common Good VA and the Democratic Party of Virginia.
Although the speech was billed as Clinton’s first official event after her campaign launch, none of the money raised went to her own campaign.
In her speech, Clinton praised McAuliffe and urged attendees to support Democrats in the state legislature.
‘Virginia, let’s work together to make sure this beloved commonwealth is blue, that we have Democrats in the state legislature to work with the governor, and that we do have a Democratic president in the White House in 2017,’ Clinton told the crowd.
The Clinton campaign and Common Good VA did not respond to requests for comment about the June 2015 fundraiser, and whether Clinton met with Jill McCabe at the event.
The Virginia Democratic Party claimed at the time that the fundraiser pulled in over $1 million.
According to state election records, a number of high-dollar donations that week to Common Good VA came from Clinton’s close friends and aides.
So Hillary went out and raised a fortune for Andrew McCabe’s wife to run for the state Senate in Virginia. She ended up with some $1.6 million worth of funds to spend. On a state senate race she was never going to win. And then Andrew McCabe got a promotion to the No. 2 position at FBI, where he became responsible for the investigation of Hillary’s e-mails. He didn’t recuse himself. And the investigation then essentially melted away under obvious political pressure from above, to the loud objections of the agents who were conducting it.
You want to complain about white people getting away with breaking the law, here’s where your outrage belongs. Instead, that crowd is going to vote for more of it.
– It’s time for a Today’s Last Thing. And today we’ve got a dog story…
Fuzz was the Manning family’s dog for eight years. They got him when he was just a furry little puppy, and it didn’t take long for them to feel like he was another member of the family. So, when the Mannings came home from church one day to find the gate open and Fuzz missing, they didn’t know what to do.
That’s the end of the story.
They didn’t find him. It’s been about two months now, and no one’s seen him. They’re not even really looking for him anymore because it seems hopeless. The worst part is that they don’t know if he’s dead, and they probably won’t ever find out. That’s just the way it is.
“When Fuzz went missing, we thought he might never come back,” said Keith Manning, who adopted Fuzz nearly a decade ago with his wife, Melissa. “And that’s exactly what appears to be happening. He’s just gone, and it’s really sad.”
Wow. What an amazing story. It really shows how sometimes miracles don’t happen, and we’re left alone and bereft, picking up the pieces of our broken lives, unsure of how to move on.
Just kidding. That’s not really Today’s Last Thing. We wouldn’t leave you with something so barren. We thought it was funny, though.
Here’s Today’s Last Thing – how about a music video which is actually a 3D thing?