Oregon refuge biologist says office was 'completely trashed'
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - The Oregon standoff trial entered its second week with a fish biologist testifying that occupiers left her office at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge "completely trashed."
Linda Beck said she returned to the refuge in mid-February to find items that don't belong to her strewn about the office.
Prosecutors showed jurors photos of standoff leaders Ammon and Ryan Bundy using Beck's office as their own. Another photo showed black assault rifles and ammunition in the office.
"There were piles of stuff that wasn't mine," she said in court.
Beck said she was also forced to cancel a commercial fishing project to reduce carp, an invasive species, in Malheur Lake, because of the occupation. Beck said private Harney County fishermen planned to use carp to produce organic fertilizer. When asked by prosecutors why she canceled the fishing project, she said, "because there were people in my office."
The Bundys and five co-defendants are charged with conspiring to impede federal employees such as Beck from doing their jobs at the refuge.
Under cross-examination, defense lawyer Marcus Mumford asked Beck if it's possible that FBI agents caused the mess She acknowledged the possibility.
Though she didn't go to the refuge during the 41-day standoff, Beck testified that she continued to work and get paid.
Beck's colleague, archaeologist Carla Burnside, said she returned mid-February to find a muddy boot-print on her office door and evidence the door had been forcibly pried open.
Burnside worked not only as the archaeologist on-site, but in information technologies (IT), serving as the refuge's technological troubleshooter.
When prosecutors asked her if she found evidence someone had been in her office, she replied yes.
"On the keyboard pullout... there was a moldy biscuit," she said. Upstairs, Burnside said she found a half-eaten apple. Burnside said the apple was found in a locked room used for storing artifacts. Burnside said she's the only one with a key to the room.
Inside her office, Burnside said occupiers opened her locked filing cabinets and a safe. She said occupiers used her "smart card chip reader" to access her computer. Burnside said federal employees told her on January 2, three computers had been accessed, before internet at the refuge was turned off.
Burnside also disputed a piece of video evidence from mid-January that shows LaVoy Finicum exposing the apparent mistreatment of ancient Burns Paiute Tribe artifacts by U.S. Fish & Wildlife employees.
"Box 'em up and let 'em rot, "one of the men off-camera said in the background of the clip.
Burnside says Fish & Wildlife has an unofficial agreement with the Burns Paiute tribal staff and counsel to store artifacts in a secured location on the refuge, until they could find a curator site. She says the Bureau of Land Management is not in-charge of managing artifacts.
Following Burnside, prosecutors called Burns resident Nick Blueler, 23, to the stand.
Bleuler attended a community meeting on January 1, 2016 that Jon Ritzheimer and Ryan Payne organized. Bleuler participated in the January 2 protest in support of the Hammonds, then drove to the federal refuge later that night.
He drove to the refuge with his wife and two children. When he arrived, Bleuler said he was approached by a group of 10 to 15 men, who postured their weapons towards the car. "The barrel of the gun pointed towards me," he said.
Bleuler said he drove back to Burns, but returned the following day, where he was escorted in to the refuge.
He says he met the Bundys and LaVoy Finicum before being taken to the bunkhouse, and being assigned to stand-guard.
"The rifles weren't the ones you'd go hunting with," Bleuler said in court.
Bleuler performed short watches near the entryway and inside the fire tower.
""[They] tried to use us as a local support," Bleuler said referring to he and his friend Levi Majors. "I think they wanted us to be gone."
Bleuler said he assisted in removing surveillance cameras mounted to poles in two separate locations. The government was apparently using the cameras to watch traffic coming and going from the refuge.
Bleuler is a convicted felon.
The prosecution's case will continue Tuesday.