Ammon Bundy's former attorney says he expected the not guilty outcome
EUGENE, Ore. – After the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupiers were found not guilty Thursday, the verdict is spurring mixed reactions from Oregonians.
Ammon Bundy's former defense attorney Mike Arnold said he’s not surprised by the verdict, but he understands why people would be. He said this case continues to raise questions about the relationship between the government and its citizens.
When Arnold represented Ammon Bundy in the Malheur Refuge occupation trial, he said he estimated a 60 percent chance of winning.
His confidence wavered during the pretrial period, but the verdict – not guilty on all charges – is what he expected.
“The theory that we were advancing and they really, successfully advanced at trial is that they weren't intending to impede government employees, that was just a collateral consequence,” Arnold said.
He said in the defense strategy, impeding the government wasn’t the issue at all.
“What was at risk is the ability for future protesters to fight the government, to take a hard stand politically and say things that the government doesn't like,” Arnold said.
He spoke to the Bundys Friday morning.
“Everybody's happy and I think, ironically, a lot of them kind of expected this outcome,” he said.
He said it’s ironic because most people didn’t expect this outcome.
“Basically all they accomplished was causing a lot of pain and heartache for the folks in Harney County,” said Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden.
In a statement, Harney County Sheriff David Ward said:
“While I am disappointed in the outcome, I believe our form of government and justice system to be the best in the world.”
He went on to say, “This is our system and I stand by it.”
“It's not a shock to the people in the case, that knew the discovery, they knew the reason we were advancing certain issues in the media before trial, and how that was going to dovetail into the actual trial strategy,” Arnold said.
Arnold said the strategies were based on the first and second amendment rights, issues he said extend beyond this case.
Seven of the defendants chose not to be tried right now. Their trial is scheduled to begin in February.