Ryan Bundy, facing four federal charges in the armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, formally waived his right to an attorney Friday, telling the court he prefers to speak on his own behalf.
“I need to be able to speak when the time is right,” Bundy said, addressing U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown.
Bundy, 43, said he was disturbed during a previous hearing when the judge told his younger brother, Ammon Bundy, not to address the court and let his lawyers do the talking.
— Liberal America Org (@LibAmericaOrg) March 18, 2016
“I feel it very important that I need not be silenced when I need to be able to speak,” Bundy said.
Brown cautioned him that he’s placing himself at serious risk because of his lack of legal training and made sure he understood the charges and the potential sentences he could face.
“The stakes here are extremely high,” Brown said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Barrow explained the four charges Bundy faces: conspiring to impede federal officers from doing their work at the refuge, possession of firearms and dangerous weapons in a federal facility, the use and carrying of firearms in relation to a crime of violence and theft of government property.
— Dahboo7 (@dahboo7) March 18, 2016
Ryan Bundy could face between five years and life in prison if convicted of the charges. The use and carrying of firearms charge brings a maximum sentence of life in prison to a mandatory minimum mandatory sentence of five years.
Bundy, who has pleaded not guilty, actually corrected Barrow after the prosecutor mistakenly cited 10 years as the maximum sentence for the firearms possession charge.
“The defendant is correct. It is a five-year maximum,” Barrow acknowledged.
Bundy was respectful throughout the hearing, consistently addressing Brown as “Your honor” and thanking her for her advice and instructions. He had a folder of papers open before him on the defense counsel’s table.
— Carli Brosseau (@carlibrosseau) March 17, 2016
The judge inquired if Bundy has had prior experience in courtrooms. He said he has represented himself in the past on minor cases, including the alleged theft of a water meter, a resisting arrest case and a traffic citation.
She told him that he must follow her rulings even if he doesn’t agree with them. If he refuses to do so, he could be removed from the courtroom.
“Are you prepared to follow that?” Brown asked.
“Yes, I will,” he replied.
She asked if he had any mental illness. “No, I have not had any mental illness or anything of the sort,” he said.
Brown asked if he’s faced any pressure to represent himself.
“No, the pressure has all been the other direction,” Bundy said. “I make the decision completely on my own accord.”
Brown accepted the withdrawal of attorney Andrew Bates from the case and appointed defense lawyer Lisa Ludwig to serve as a standby counsel for Bundy.Bates had alerted the court he could no longer “ethically’ represent” Bundy and said their attorney-client relationship had “completely broken down.”
— Carli Brosseau (@carlibrosseau) March 14, 2016
Bundy asked if he could reverse his waiver at a later date and if the attorney-client protections apply to his discussions with Ludwig. The judge said he could request a lawyer at a later date, but she couldn’t guarantee he’d be granted one if he asks too close to a trial date.
The judge intends to set a firm trial date at the next status hearing in April. Attorney-client protections do apply to his dealings with Ludwig, Brown told him.
Bundy was arrested Jan. 26 when federal agents and state police moved in to stop occupation leaders on their way to a community meeting in John Day. Bundy was riding in the back seat of Robert “LaVoy” Finicum’s Dodge pickup with co-defendant Shawna Cox, and Victoria Sharp, a member of a singing family who visited the refuge.
Ammon Bundy comes to aid of embattled Grant County sheriff https://t.co/fveOhkwgy8
— Les Zaitz (@LesZaitz) March 13, 2016
Finicum sped away from police and swerved into a snowbank at a roadblock further north on U.S. 395. A trooper fired on the truck as it headed toward the roadblock. Two troopers shot Finicum after he emerged from the truck and reached three times into a pocket of his jacket where he had a 9mm pistol, police said. Finicum died at the scene.
Sharp attended Bundy’s court hearing Friday. Before the proceeding began, he looked back and winked at her and mouthed, “Are you OK?” She touched her shoulder but nodded yes.
Bundy is one of 26 defendants indicted in connection with the refuge takeover. Co-defendant Kenneth Medenbach waived his right to be represented by a lawyer last week.
— Maxine Bernstein (@maxoregonian) March 11, 2016