Montana man with front-row seat at Bundy trial says feds “over-r - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

Montana man with front-row seat at Bundy trial says feds “over-reached”

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Roger Roots Roger Roots

A Montana attorney who assisted Ryan Bundy at his federal conspiracy trial said Friday he thinks the jury acquitted Bundy and six others Thursday because of the “overreaching of the federal prosecution.”

“The case, if anything, was maybe a trespassing allegation,” said Roger Roots of Livingston, a “standby counsel” for Bundy, who represented himself at the trial. “Instead, they come in with this bizarre conspiracy theory.”

Roots, who’s also a Libertarian candidate for Montana secretary of state in the Nov. 8 election, served as a paralegal to assist Bundy. He said he had “the best seat in the house, right in front of the judge” for all six weeks of the trial in federal court in Portland, Ore.

However, Roots was not in the courtroom when the jury returned the verdict Thursday, acquitting Bundy and six others who had occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Oregon early this year.

Speaking by telephone from Bozeman, Roots said the government chose to charge the defendants with conspiracy to prevent federal employees from going to work at the refuge, which “was probably the farthest things from (the defendants’) minds.”

The group occupied the refuge on Jan. 2 to protest prison sentences handed down to a pair of local ranchers for setting fires on federal land. They demanded the ranchers be set free and that the government relinquish control of public lands to local officials.

The Bundys were arrested about three weeks later at a traffic stop outside the refuge that ended with the fatal shooting of Robert Fincium, a spokesman for the occupiers.

Roots, who said he wasn’t allowed to speak for Bundy during the trial, said two witnesses testified that they saw at least one federal worker at or near the refuge during the standoff, and that they weren’t mistreated by the occupiers.

“That has gone unreported,” he said. “The whole case was built on lies and misinformation.”

The Bundys now will stand trial in Nevada on more serious charges, stemming from a 2014 armed standoff at their father’s ranch.

About Mike Dennison

MTN Chief Political Reporter Mike Dennison joined MTN News in August 2015 after a 23-year career as a newspaper reporter covering Montana politics and state government. While some may believe that politics are boring, Mike firmly believes that's not the case if you tell the story with pizzazz and let people know why the story is important.
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