I don’t believe we have commented on the acquittal in Oregon of Ammon Bundy and six others who engaged in an armed takeover of an Oregon wildlife refuge. The acquittal strikes me as a victory for lawlessness. I agree with Mark Heckert of the Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, who stated:
Negotiating at the barrel of a gun is not a rural value; that’s just intimidation. It emboldens these guys who think if something doesn’t go your way, grab a gun and go out and force people to change it. I’m disgusted at the actions that people can take without any consequences.
It’s possible, though, that the government failed to prove its case. The defendants were charged with conspiracy to prevent federal employees from doing their job (a charge not necessarily conducive to gaining juror sympathy for the prosecution in many quarters). One juror wrote to the Oregonian newspaper to say:
It should be known that all 12 jurors felt that this verdict was a statement regarding the various failures of the prosecution to prove ‘conspiracy’ in the count itself — and not any form of affirmation of the defense’s various beliefs, actions or aspirations.
Since I didn’t follow the trial, I can’t say with whether the prosecution proved a conspiracy. But this report in the New York Times tends to corroborate what the juror told the Oregonian. According to the Times “most onlookers blamed prosecutorial overreach — that the government stretched its case too far to fit the events at the refuge — or stumbles in the presentation of evidence.”
The Times also notes:
Though often used for criminal enterprises — like a plot to steal money or to sell illegal drugs — conspiracy appeared to be a cloudier explanation for the occupation, which drew an array of people with grievances against Washington.
If the defendants got off because the government failed to prove its case, I applaud the jurors for their verdict. However, I share Mark Heckert’s disgust that armed men willfully broke the law and got away with it.