(Reuters) - The jury that acquitted anti-government militant leader Ammon Bundy and six others of conspiracy charges stemming from an armed takeover of a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon said prosecutors failed to prove their case, the Oregonian reported, citing one of the juror’s emails.
While the jurors felt Bundy was never fully honest and “something was wrong” about the 41-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge earlier this year, federal prosecutors in the Portland trial failed to overcome the jury’s doubts that an actual conspiracy existed, Juror 4 said in an email published by the newspaper on Thursday.
"How could 12 diverse people find such agreement unless there was a colossal failure on the part of the prosecution?" the juror said in one email. (here)
Kevin Sonoff, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Portland, declined to comment, citing ongoing litigation.
The paper described the Juror 4 as a 44-year-old business administration student at Marylhurst University who served in the Navy during the Iraq War. He did not want to be identified to avoid threats.
Before their acquittal last week, Bundy and the other defendants, including his brother Ryan Bundy, had cast the occupation as a legitimate and patriotic act of civil disobedience. Prosecutors had called it a lawless scheme to seize federal property by force.
The jury found the defendants not guilty of the most serious charge, conspiracy to impede federal officers through intimidation, threats or force. That charge alone carried a maximum penalty of six years in prison.
The stinging defeat left federal prosecutors scrambling as they prepare to try in February seven others who were part of the same occupation. Bundy and his brother also still face assault, conspiracy and other charges from a separate 2014 armed standoff in Nevada.
Juror 4 said the entire jury agreed that impeding of federal officers at the Oregon wildlife refuge had taken place, but the judge had said there was no statute against it.
“We were not asked to judge on bullets and hurt feelings, rather to decide if an agreement was made with an illegal object in mind,” he said. “It seemed this basic, high standard of proof was lost upon the prosecution throughout.”
Juror 4 said the lack of engagement by law enforcement during the occupation coupled with visits to the refuge by politicians led him to see how the occupiers could view their presence as not being illegal.
Reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit; Editing by Andrew Hay and Paul Simao