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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
News >  Pacific NW

Oregon ranching standoff accused get ‘special accommodations’ from judge

By Gillian Flaccus Associated Press

PORTLAND – A federal judge said in court papers that he has allowed six of the defendants accused in the armed occupation of an Oregon wildlife refuge earlier this year to meet with their attorneys – and sometimes with each other – at a special courthouse location after they complained about their ability to prepare for trial from a county jail.

The defendants are being housed at the Multnomah County Detention Center, and U.S. District Judge Robert E. Jones said in the declaration filed late Thursday he at first kept the meetings “off the record” because jail staff was concerned other inmates would request similar treatment.

The trial of Ammon Bundy and seven others charged in the 41-day occupation of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is scheduled to start Sept. 7.

The takeover lasted nearly six weeks and included the fatal shooting by police of rancher and occupation spokesman Robert “LaVoy” Finicum. The occupiers wanted the federal government to relinquish public lands and free two Oregon ranchers imprisoned for setting fires. Neither demand was met.

Under the arrangements, the defendants can meet with their attorneys and an investigator and have access to the internet, cellphones and can review evidence in the case electronically.

Agents with the U.S. Marshals Service observe the meetings on a screen, but the conversations are not recorded.

Ammon Bundy and his brother, Ryan, met under these conditions for two full days in June. A second meeting in July was canceled after their attorneys did not show up, Jones wrote, and they have not requested another one.

Four other defendants also used the location for meetings with their attorneys, Jones said. “The feedback from those who had met with their clients in the Marshal’s lock up was uniformly positive,” he wrote.

The Bundy brothers and others complained in court papers in May that they did not have a confidential phone line in jail, had no access to federal court files online and jailers sometimes read and confiscated their trial preparation notes.

“They want to direct their defense, with the assistance of their lawyers to do so,” the papers read. “The current conditions of the jail make this impossible.”

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