Oregon’s ‘Cowboy Campers’ Face New Indictment Over Crimes of Violence

latest Malheur indictment BundyAmmon Bundy and his gang of armed thugs kicked off 2016 by invading Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge on Jan. 2. And now that they are behind bars, they are trying to position their violent acts as a case of legitimate civil disobedience by peaceful “cowboy campers.” That’s a stretch, to say the least. Few if any of the Bundy gang are actual cowboys in terms of occupational definition, and the pretense of civil disobedience was blown from the beginning by the gang’s fixation with personal weaponry.

To underscore the point, a federal grand jury just handed down yet another in a series of felony indictments, this one nailing the group for possessing firearms in federal facilities, among other charges.

Another day, another Malheur indictment

For those of you new to the topic, TriplePundit has been following the Ammon Bundy Malheur episode in Oregon, and the fallout from another armed standoff spearheaded by Ammon’s father Cliven Bundy in Nevada, because both of the men are business owners who purport to be acting on behalf of the community at large. However, from a corporate responsibility perspective, their actions are virtually nonsensical.

Ammon Bundy’s takeover of the Malheur Refuge garnered no praise among the local stakeholder groups that he claimed to support. In the aftermath of the takeover, he and two dozen of his gang were arrested and indicted for impeding federal agents, among other initial charges. Almost all of them, including Ammon, have been held in jail without bail pending trial.

In the latest Malheur development, Reuters reported that a federal grand jury returned a new indictment on March 8 that piles on additional charges and defendants, too:

“The superseding indictment lists 26 defendants. Each is charged with the initial charge of conspiring to impede federal agents. It newly accuses some of the protesters of: possession of firearms and dangerous weapons in federal facilities, use and carry of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence, and depredation of government property.”

The latest Malheur indictment is available online, and one point of interest is that it covers incidents as far back as November 2015. The new Malheur indictment also indicates that more legal action can be expected in the future:

“Beginning on or about November 2015, defendants and conspirators recruited and encouraged other individuals, known and unknown to the grand jury, in person and through social media and other mean of communication, to participate and assist in the above-described conspiracy,” the indictment reads.

“In or about November 2015 continuing through January 26, 2016, defendants and conspirators traveled to Harney County, Oregon, to intimidate and coerce the population of Harney County, Oregon, in order to effectuate the goals of the conspiracy.

“Beginning on January 2, 2016, defendants and conspirators occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by force while using and carrying firearms.”

That’s just part of the first count. The second count charges Ammon and many of his principal supporters with inducing others to carry firearms. That’s a significant point because during the six-week occupation, some observers noted that Ammon and his deputies were assigning potentially criminal tasks to new arrivals, most likely in an attempt to shield themselves from prosecution.

Throughout the occupation, Ammon and his core supporters continued to issue calls for more “patriots” to join them at the Malheur Refuge, where their simple presence ensnared them in a web of criminal activity and exposed them to felony charges.

Even as the criminal charges rack up, from jail Ammon Bundy has continued to represent the Malheur takeover as a “demonstration,” claiming: “We were there for peace.”

More Malheur fallout in Nevada

Ammon Bundy also set the stage for his own apprehension and arrest, along with his chief supporters, when he traveled from the relative safety of the Malheur Refuge to raise support in a nearby community. The aftershocks of his incompetent leadership continued to ripple out even after that. His jailhouse video plea for sympathy from elected officials inspired his father, Cliven Bundy, to leave his Nevada stronghold and fly to Oregon, where he was promptly arrested for leading his own gang of thugs in a standoff with federal agents back in 2014.

That brings us around to Cliven Bundy’s curious views on corporate social responsibility. Like his son, the elder Bundy’s rhetoric echoes the “states rights” platform pushed by the Koch-backed conservative lobbying organization ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, to justify privatizing federal lands.

Ammon Bundy argued that federal land should be turned over to local authorities for eventual use by ranchers, miners and loggers, which happen to be three sectors of interest to the Koch brothers. Cliven Bundy used similar ALEC-inspired arguments to back up his position that the federal government has no property rights outside of Washington, D.C.

Now that Cliven is behind bars, he and his gang are finally being called to account for the Nevada standoff. In the latest development, ABC News reported that bail has been denied to another group of defendants facing conspiracy and assault charges in that episode. The total number of defendants so far in the Nevada case is 19, including Cliven Bundy, Ammon Bundy and three of his brothers: Ryan, Cliven Lance and David, ABC News reported.

The public record is also beginning to reveal some details about Cliven Bundy’s cattle operation. His animal husbandry practices appear to have been a free-for-all on the public’s dime, including neglect of the cattle as well as destruction of sensitive lands, interference with other users and road safety issues.

In a memorandum of support for denial of bail, federal attorneys argued that “Bundy is lawless and violent” and that his actions in 2014 could have caused “catastrophic loss of life or injury to others.” The memo also included a lengthy description of Bundy’s cattle operation. Here are some snippets:

“… He lets them run wild on the public lands with little, if any human interaction … He does not vaccinate or treat his cattle for disease, does not employ cowboys to control and herd them, does not manage or control breeding …”

[snip]

“… Bundy’s cattle are left to fend for themselves year-round, fighting off predators and scrounging for the meager amounts of food and water available …”

Meanwhile, the journal Public Lands reported that Cliven Bundy has profited from his use of public land, selling approximately 1,300 cattle over the past five years.

The task of removing the remaining cattle from public land is still left undone while officials try to figure out how to conduct the roundup safely, given the continued threat of armed thuggery in the area.

Photo: Black-billed Magpie at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by Dan Dzurisin via flickr.com, creative commons license.

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Tina is a career public information specialist and former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes. She writes frequently on sustainable tech issues for Triple Pundit and other websites, with a focus on military, government and corporate sustainability, and she is currently Deputy Director of Public Information for the County of Union, New Jersey.