PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) – The leader of the armed standoff at an Oregon wildlife refuge and nine of his followers are due back in court Wednesday as four holdouts extend the occupation past a month.
Ammon Bundy and the others who have been arrested were scheduled for preliminary hearings in federal court in Portland. They all face a felony conspiracy charge, accused of using intimidation to prevent federal officers from doing their work at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. The maximum penalty is six years in prison.
The occupation began Jan. 2, with the group demanding the federal government turn public lands over to local control. While most of the occupiers have been arrested, four of them have refused to leave despite Bundy’s urging.
They have said they want assurances they won’t be arrested. The remaining occupiers are: David Fry, 27, of Blanchester, Ohio; Jeff Banta, 46, of Elko, Nevada; and Sean Anderson, 48, and Sandy Anderson, 47, a married couple from Riggins, Idaho.
During the hearings Wednesday, prosecutors were expected to offer evidence to establish probable cause for the arrests. More charges could be added in the future.
The government is building a case to try to show that the occupation was a threat to residents and federal employees. Prosecutors say the group was ready to use violence to hold on to the refuge.
Defense attorneys have said their clients engaged in civil disobedience and are being punished for political speech. They say the only use of force during the standoff was by police, who shot and killed occupier Robert “LaVoy” Finicum during a Jan. 26 traffic stop. That’s when Bundy and others were taken into custody.
Federal authorities have released aerial video and said Finicum was going for a gun in his jacket pocket.
Bundy said in a statement through his attorney Tuesday that the refuge “belongs to the people” and U.S. officials do not belong there.