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Ammon Bundy will go to trial for allegedly harassing witnesses in St. Luke’s case

Ammon Bundy announces his candidacy for governor of Idaho during a campaign event on June 19, 2021, in Boise.  (Getty Images)
By Sally Krutzig Idaho Statesman

After a year of avoiding the Ada County Courthouse in a defamation case brought against him, far-right activist Ammon Bundy appeared for a hearing Tuesday morning.

Bundy was arraigned in Boise on contempt of court charges and a trial date was set in his latest tussle with the justice system in Idaho. Fourth District Judge Lynn Norton issued an arrest warrant for Bundy in April after he allegedly violated a court order to stop harassing and intimidating witnesses in the since-resolved St. Luke’s case, the Statesman previously reported.

Bundy was arrested Aug. 11 on that warrant at a high school football fundraiser, according to previous Statesman reporting. He bonded out of the Gem County Jail for $10,000 after spending more than 24 hours inside.

Fourth District Judge Nancy Baskin set a bench trial to begin 8:30 a.m. Oct. 2 at the Ada County Courthouse. Any sentence will be decided by Baskin and not a jury because the maximum penalty for Bundy would be six months in jail. He could face fines for each time he’s found to have violated the court order.

The charges against Bundy relate to the St. Luke’s defamation case that concluded in July with a jury ordering Bundy and an associate, Diego Rodriguez, to pay $52.5 million in damages to the health system and other plaintiffs. The case began after Bundy and Rodriguez led protests at St. Luke’s hospitals in Meridian and downtown Boise in March 2022 over a child welfare case involving Rodriguez’s 10-month-old grandchild.

Bundy has declared he owes “St. Luke’s nothing.”

The defendants were found to have posted multiple lies online about the hospital system its health professionals, and about why the baby was taken into custody. They posted videos and blogs saying the hospital was working with the government to take children away from Christian families to be sexually abused and given to gay couples, according to court documents.

Bundy was accused of harassing witnesses in the case multiple times in April, leading to the contempt charge. At least three witnesses were unwilling to testify because they feared the tactics used by the former gubernatorial candidate and his followers, according to St. Luke’s attorney Erik Stidham.

The plaintiffs also have alleged that Bundy, Rodriguez and their followers have continued to attack and harass witnesses who testified in the July trial.

Bundy represents himself in court

Bundy represented himself at Tuesday’s hearing, as he often has done after arrests, including on trespassing charges. Baskin strongly recommended he obtain an attorney for the trial or use a public defender. Bundy said it was difficult to find someone willing to represent him.

“They’re very, very hard (to find) and they’re expensive,” Bundy said.

About 20 people were at the hearing to support Bundy, and some spoke out of turn in court.

Baskin went back and forth with a few attendees when multiple people said they wanted to represent Bundy’s People’s Rights Network. Members have taken issue with the perception that Bundy controls the group, and one person told Baskin she “need(s) to understand what People’s Rights Network is.”

“I don’t need to understand that today,” Baskin said. “All I know is to represent any entity, a person needs to be a licensed attorney in the state of Idaho.”

The People’s Rights Network also called on its members to demonstrate in front of St. Luke’s attorney’s office and at the home of Norton, the judge who issued the warrant. Followers also posted photos of flyers attacking Norton.