Juror: Ac­quit­tal not en­dorse­ment of oc­cu­piers

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - WEATHER -

The stun­ning ac­quit­tal of seven peo­ple who oc­cu­pied a fed­eral wildlife sanc­tu­ary in Ore­gon was a re­jec­tion of the pros­e­cu­tion’s con­spir­acy case, not an en­dorse­ment of the de­fen­dants’ ac­tions in the armed protest, a juror said Fri­day.

But sym­pa­thiz­ers who be­lieve such re­sis­tance to the gov­ern­ment is jus­ti­fied could feel em­bold­ened by the ver­dict, which might in­vite more con­fronta­tions in a long-run­ning dis­pute over West­ern lands.

Wor­ried that Thurs­day’s ver­dict could lead to more land takeovers, In­te­rior Sec­re­tary Sally Jewell on Fri­day urged all gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees to “re­main vig­i­lant and re­port any sus­pi­cious ac­tiv­ity.” In a state­ment, she said she was “pro­foundly dis­ap­pointed” in the jury’s de­ci­sion.

Wil­liam C. Fisher, an ac­tivist from Boise, Idaho, who once camped by a memorial to oc­cu­pier LaVoy Finicum at the site where he was shot dead by po­lice, pre­dicted that the ver­dict would en­cour­age oth­ers to act.

“I think a lot more peo­ple will be re­volt­ing, re­belling and stand­ing up against what we see as a tyran­ni­cal gov­ern­ment,” Fisher said in a tele­phone in­ter­view.

The 41-day takeover of the Mal­heur Na­tional Wildlife Refuge last Jan­uary in re­mote eastern Ore­gon was part of a larger de­bate about the use of fed­eral lands in the West. The mil­i­tants led by Am­mon Bundy, a small busi­ness owner from Ari­zona, wanted to hand the refuge over to lo­cal of­fi­cials, say­ing the fed­eral gov­ern­ment should not have do­min­ion over it.

The U.S. gov­ern­ment owns nearly half of all land in the West, com­pared with only 4 per­cent in the other states, ac­cord­ing to the Con­gres­sional Over­view of Fed­eral Land Own­er­ship.

One of the jurors in the case as­serted Fri­day that the panel was not en­dors­ing mil­i­tancy to re­solve those is­sues.

The juror, iden­ti­fied only as No. 4, wrote in an email to The Ore­go­nian/Ore­gonLive that the ver­dicts were a “state­ment” about the pros­e­cu­tion’s fail­ure to prove a con­spir­acy charge “and not any form of af­fir­ma­tion of the de­fense’s var­i­ous be­liefs, ac­tions or as­pi­ra­tions.”

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