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Malheur gun charge linked to conspiracy

The Nov. 3 Our View editorial was helpful in trying to understand the verdict in the Malheur case. We don't know what is necessary to prove conspiracy, but apparently the jury didn't feel it was met, and we accept that. However, we're confused about the firearms charge. It was obvious they had guns on federal property. Did they have to prove there was a conspiracy to do that? I don't believe they have to prove that if you bring a gun into a federal building. Could you shed any more light on this?

— Stephanie T.

Yes, we can, Stephanie. You are, of course, referring to the trial of Ammon and Ryan Bundy and five others for the 41-day armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Harney County last winter. A federal jury acquitted the defendants last month on charges of conspiracy to impede federal workers from doing their jobs and possession of firearms in a federal facility.

You're on the right track in asking about conspiracy regarding the gun-possession charge. While prosecutors weren't required to prove the defendants conspired to bring guns to the refuge, the two charges are linked.

To prove the conspiracy charge, prosecutors had to prove the defendants plotted to take over the wildlife refuge with the intent of impeding federal workers in the performance of their duties. Jurors were not convinced the occupiers intended to impede anyone, so they acquitted them of conspiracy.

The firearms charge required prosecutors to prove the defendants brought guns on federal property to commit a crime. Because the jury found the defendants not guilty of the alleged crime of conspiracy, the firearms charge didn't hold up either.

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