Bundy follower from Georgia facing trial for wildlife refuge takeover

Jason Patrick of Bonaire made a name for himself in Georgia, at least among some members of law enforcement. Now, the Georgia man is going on trial in Oregon for the armed occupation of a national bird sanctuary.

malheur-wildlife-reserve-entrance-300x225Patrick was one of the last people to leave the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge after the group’s original leader, Ammon Bundy, called on followers to go home.

While Bundy and six of his followers were acquitted of federal charges in the case last year, prosecutors refused to drop the case against Patrick and three others. They are charged with felony counts of conspiring to impede federal workers from doing their jobs through intimidation, threat or force.

Before the Oregon case, Patrick, a roofing contractor, drew public attention several times in Georgia. In 2013, he organized a protest against Warner Robins plan to purchase an armored vehicle for police, drawing the ire of the mayor. In 2014, during the Atlanta “snow jam, he helped stranded motorists, a TV station reported.

Later in 2014, the Macon Telegraph reported, he was accused of going into the Warner Robins Municipal Court office and threatening to “kill everyone” inside. The newspaper reported that he refused a police officer’s repeated demands to leave. He was later indicted in connection with the allegations. He pleaded not guilty last March.

That case is pending, with no trial date set, a Houston County court official said Friday.

In the Oregon federal case, Patrick drew attention at a pre-trial hearing earlier this week when he remained seated as fellow defendants, attorneys, FBI agents, on-lookers and others stood up as the federal judge entered the courtroom, Oregon Public Radio reported. When the judge asked why he didn’t stand, Patrick told her, “I’ll stand for the jury.”

Patrick also drew attention in December when he tried to get the federal case thrown out. He argued that he would be deprived of a fair trial because federal officials had made “public statements disparaging the jury’s acquittal of the first seven defendants,” court records show. Those statements, he argued, amounted to prosecutorial misconduct.

What did the officials say? One statement he cited was by Billy Williams, the U.S. Attorney for Oregon. Following the acquittal, Williams said, “While we had hoped for a different outcome, we respect the verdict of the jury and thank them for their dedicated service during this long and difficult trial.”

Another statement Patrick cited was a tweet by Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, saying she was disappointed in the verdict. A third was by an FBI agent who noted that hundreds of local, state and federal law enforcement officials had worked around the clock to resolve the armed occupation at the refuge peacefully. “Although we are extremely disappointed in the verdict, we respect the court and the role of the jury in the American judicial system,” the agent said.

The judge denied his motions. She wrote that the three statements “were professional and expressed the to-be-expected disappointment that they felt as a result of the verdict adverse to their respective positions in the trial…”

Patrick has been described as the leader of the last hold-outs at the refuge. He explained his motive in a radio interview, according to the federal criminal complaint in the case.

“[What] we hope to achieve is restore the Constitution and the right of the people of Harney County…access of the land back to the proper jurisdiction,” the complaint quotes him as saying.

 

 

 

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