Tattoo artist pleads guilty in refuge case
PORTLAND, Ore. — An Arizona tattoo artist pleaded guilty Wednesday to federal charges in the Oregon’s ranching standoff case.
Brian Cavalier, a bodyguard for standoff leader Ammon Bundy and his father Cliven Bundy, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and possessing a gun in a federal facility. Cavalier admitted in federal court in Portland that he conspired with others to impede Interior Department employees from doing their jobs at the refuge near Burns.
He became the sixth defendant to plead guilty in the continuing case. The other five took deals in which government prosecutors agreed to dismiss the gun charge.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Gabriel said prosecutors, in exchange for Cavalier’s acceptance of responsibility, will recommend a sentence far below the maximum of 11 years in prison, likely 15-21 months.
Cavalier also faces charges in Nevada for his involvement in a 2014 armed standoff with federal agents at Cliven Bundy’s ranch. Gabriel said Wednesday’s plea agreement is with Oregon alone, and there are “no promises” in the Nevada case.
Cavalier, 45, traveled to Oregon this past winter to participate in the Ammon Bundy-led occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, a protest against the federal control of Western lands and the imprisonment of two ranchers convicted of setting fires.
Cavalier stayed for only five days before going back to Arizona. He had a runin with police there and returned to Oregon.
He was arrested Jan. 26 along with Bundy as the two traveled to a community meeting away from the refuge. Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, the occupation spokesman, was in a different vehicle and was fatally shot by Oregon State Police during the traffic stop.
Gabriel noted that Cavalier was armed during his initial stay at the refuge, but didn’t have a gun when he returned to Oregon and was unarmed during the traffic stop.
Cavalier told the judge his actions could have led to the intimidation of federal employees. Gabriel took exception to the word “could,” and the defendant rephrased his answer. In response to another question, he said: “Yes, your honor. I did agree with at least one other person to impede,” emphasizing the last word.
Cavalier will be sentenced Sept. 30, three weeks after most of the remaining 20 defendants — including Ammon Bundy — are scheduled to go on trial.