Oregon Standoff Trial: Ammon Bundy Says He Came to Help Ranchers

Another defense witness who may be called today is Michele Fiore, a Nevada lawmaker who was in frequent contact with Ammon Bundy and other occupiers at the refuge.

Ammon Bundy spent much of his morning testimony recounting the 2014 Nevada standoff between members of his family and federal officials.

In the fall of 2015, Bundy said his father told him about Dwight and Steven Hammond, ranchers in Burns, Oregon, convicted of arson on federal land.

"'I can't fight another fight", Bundy remembered telling his father. "We would never have been able to tell people why we were there".

"I had this overwhelming feeling that it was my duty to get involved to protect this family", Bundy said. He is expected to give a detailed account of his actions in the state when he resumes what is expected to be lengthy testimony on Thursday.

As for using weapons at Malheur, Bundy said: "There was no way the FBI and federal government would allow us to express our First Amendment rights. unless we expressed our Second Amendment rights, the right to bear arms".

Bundy and the six others now on trial are charged with conspiring to prevent federal workers from doing their jobs through the use of force, intimidation or threats.

So far, 11 of those named in the indictment have pleaded guilty; others, including Washington resident Darryl Thorn, face separate trials scheduled for next year.

Particularly, he described a series of meetings in November with Sheriff David Ward and other local leaders as an attempt to convince them to intervene.

Bundy testified that when he came to OR to protest the Hammonds being sent to prison, he had not meant to take over the refuge, that it was something decided on the morning that it happened.

The occupation leader from Emmett, Idaho, said he did not tell anyone about his plan to take over the refuge until the day it happened. That joint state law-enforcement and Federal Bureau of Investigation action also resulted in the shooting death of another leader in the movement, rancher LaVoy Finnicum.

The leader of an armed takeover of a national wildlife refuge took the witness stand in his own defense, tearfully telling jurors he was initially reluctant to get involved in the plight of two OR ranchers ordered to return to prison.

Bundy broke down as he talked about his initial hesitancy to come to the aid of the two OR ranchers.

Federal officials wanted Cliven Bundy, Ammon's father, to pay several decades' worth of overdue grazing fees or risk having his cattle seized.

At the conclusion of their trial in OR, the Bundy siblings face assault, conspiracy and other charges from a separate 2014 standoff in Nevada.

"My dad and brothers are all in jail right now".

"Without the guns, they would have come out in a paddy wagon and put us in zip-tie handcuffs", Bundy said of authorities. "It's wrong. It's wrong".

  • Larry Hoffman