Oregon occupiers plead not guilty

Oregon standoff

Top: Brian Cavalier, Ammon Edward Bundy, Joseph O’Shaughnessy, Peter Santilli. Bottom: Ryan Bundy, Ryan Payne, Shawna Cox, and Jon Ritzheimer.

Sixteen individuals who engaged in a standoff at an Oregon wildlife refuge pleaded not guilty to federal conspiracy charges in court Wednesday.

After reading the indictment and the charges brought against them, the defendants were each asked if they understood the charges. While Ammon Bundy responded with a simple “yes,” others were a bit more verbal.

“It’s difficult to understand presumption of innocence when I’ve spent the last month in a jail cell and been led around in shackles and chains,” Ryan Payne noted after U.S. District Judge Anna Brown read them their rights and explained they were all innocent until proven guilty.

Likewise, Jason Patrick took the opportunity to tell Brown — and everyone else in the courtroom, “You’re the federal government; you’re going to do whatever you want.”

Additionally, Kenneth Medenbach, announced that he would be representing himself, then made a motion to have the case dismissed, citing lack of jurisdiction.

Brown reacted to the negativity by giving prosecutors a March 4 deadline to provide some answers to the defendants.

“They’ve been in custody for weeks. They need information,” Brown said.

The trial is set to begin in late April, and Brown told Assistant U.S. Attorney Ethan Knight the defendants had a right to a speedy trial, indicating she did not want it to be dragged out into next year.

Defense lawyers, along with investigators, are scheduled to return to the refuge this week to reexamine the scene, which prosecutors claim was damaged during the 41-day standoff.

[ Associated Press ]