3 Oregon refuge defendants plead guilty to trespassing

Of the Associated Press

PORTLAND — Three of the final seven defendants charged in the Ammon Bundy-led takeover of a national wildlife refuge last year took plea deals Monday instead of heading to trial next week.

Sean and Sandy Anderson, a couple from Riggins, Idaho, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Portland to misdemeanor trespassing in exchange for the dismissal of felony conspiracy and weapons charges. Also taking that step was Dylan Anderson of Provo, Utah, who is not related to the Idaho couple.

U.S. District Court Judge Anna Brown sentenced the three to one year of probation each and required each one to pay $1,000 restitution to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

They must also ask their probation officers for permission to camp on public lands. All are required to avoid the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, located in southeastern Oregon's high desert.

“The Malheur refuge is not on my bucket list,” Sean Anderson told Brown.

Ammon Bundy, joined by his brother Ryan and a band of followers, seized the refuge on Jan. 2, 2016, to protest the federal control of Western lands and the imprisonment of two ranchers convicted of setting fires.

The Bundys were arrested in a Jan. 26 traffic stop that included the fatal shooting by police of occupation spokesman Robert “LaVoy” Finicum. Four holdouts, including Sean and Sandy Anderson, refused to leave the refuge until Feb. 11.

A federal grand jury indicted 26 people on conspiracy and weapons charges.

Eleven defendants pleaded guilty last year and charges were dropped against one man.

In a high-profile trial last fall, jurors found the Bundy brothers and five others not guilty of felony charges.

Prosecutors decided after their loss in the trial to go ahead with a February trial for the remaining seven defendants. They changed their prosecutorial strategy by adding misdemeanor charges such as trespassing to the mix.

Another one of the final defendants, Darryl Thorn, of Marysville, Washington, was scheduled to join the Andersons in changing his plea Monday, but his hearing was canceled. He was similarly on the cusp of accepting a plea agreement last June before changing his mind.

Thorn's decision leaves him headed to trial next week with co-defendants Duane Ehmer, Jason Patrick and Jake Ryan.

The jurors will determine whether the four are guilty of felony conspiracy and weapons charges.

The misdemeanor charges will be heard in a non-jury trial after the felony trial ends.

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