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2nd Malheur Trial Offers Hope For Some Harney County Residents

Opening arguments for the second trial of four occupiers of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge begins Tuesday at the federal courthouse in Portland.

Many Harney County residents were disappointed by the “not guilty” jury verdict in the first trial of Ammon and Ryan Bundy and five other occupiers. This second trial features four lesser-known defendants, and some people in Harney County hope the jury sees the case differently this time.

“We just want peace back in our community, I think," said Burns resident Candy Tiller. “People are trying to get beyond this. The second trial, I guess it's like-- well is it going to be a repeat of the first one?"

In the first trial of the occupiers last fall, a 12-person jury found occupation leaders Ammon and Ryan Bundy not guilty of the government’s primary charge: conspiracy to impede federal officers by force, threat or intimidation. Their five co-defendants were all found not guilty as well.

Now, defendants Duane Ehmer, Jake Ryan, Darryl Thorn and Jason Patrick face that same federal felony charge. They also face several misdemeanor charges, like trespassing. Federal prosecutors added those charges after the not guilty verdict in the first trial came down last fall.

This second set of defendants includes lesser-known occupiers who decided to waive their right to a speedy trial, and thus opted for a delayed trial date. The trial was originally set to include a total of seven defendants, but three of those seven accepted a plea deal from the government.

For Harney County, Tiller says that every time the occupiers are in the news, it's a reminder of the trauma the occupation caused her community. The 41-day occupation disrupted the community in ways that may take years to heal.

"The community is actually trying to come back together," said Tiller. "And then keeps roaring up and slapping us in the face again and again."


Copyright 2017 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Amanda Peacher works for the Mountain West News Bureau out of Boise State Public Radio. She's an Idaho native who returned home after a decade of living and reporting in Oregon. She's an award-winning reporter with a background in community engagement and investigative journalism.