As the drama unfolded in our neighboring state of Oregon in the course of two months, one cannot help but wonder what laws were and were not violated by the leaders of armed militia occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Eastern Oregon. In case you missed it, a man named Ammon Bundy, the son of Cliven Bundy (from the Nevada BLM standoff in 2014) led a group of 30+ armed occupiers to take over a bird refuge in Harney County, Oregon. They refused to leave the Malheur national wildlife refuge since they took over the refuge’s headquarters on January 2, 2016. The militia had taken the stance that they were reclaiming public lands to protest the federal government’s regulations on private cattle grazing (the Bundy family is notorious for grazing their cows on public lands without paying the grazing fees).
Since then, a total of 25 people have been charged with the standoff. The most recent six arrested include: Blaine Cooper of Arizona; Wesley Kjar of Utah; Corey Lequieu of Nevada; Neil Wampler of California, Jason Blomgren of North Carolina, and Darryl Thorn and Eric Flores, both of Washington state. They surrendered to the FBI without incident. Two unnamed occupiers are currently on the run, and being sought. Ammon Bundy was arrested at a traffic stop on January 26, and his father Cliven, was arrested on Thursday. The occupiers themselves all face the same felony count under 18 U.S.C. § 372 – conspiracy to impede with federal workers. It is a felony punishable by six years imprisonment.
Regardless, legal experts say that the armed occupiers would have hefty fines and more than 10 years in jail, if the Department of Justice had decided prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law. Some of the federal charges they potentially faced include:
- 18 U.S.C. § 641: Holds that a person who “knowingly converts to his use” property of the federal government worth more than $1,000 faces up to 10 years imprisonment. This statute applies to federal property beyond wildlife refuges. California is home to many military bases, abandoned bases, and is also home to the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge Network. It is not a good idea to take property from any of these lands, or you may face this charge yourself.
- 18 U.S.C. § 41: Holds that willful destruction of wildlife refuge property yields a 6 month prison sentence.
- 18 U.S.C. § 1363: Holds that if f someone “willfully and maliciously” destroys property on certain federal lands, then s/he faces a fine up to $250,000 and five years in prison.
San Diego State and Federal Property Crimes Lawyer
The Law Offices of David M. Boertje handles all misdemeanor and felony criminal cases with zeal and expertise including property crimes such as trespassing, arson, and vandalism. If you or a loved one is facing a criminal charge, contact attorney David Boertje today. Our team of legal professionals will provide you with the best chance to either have your charges reduced or, completely dismissed. Consultations are free and confidential.