U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown said Wednesday she will push to try the federal conspiracy case stemming from the armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge as soon as practically possible. "My firm assertion is the case will be tried sooner than a year from now unless something makes that impossible,'' Brown said in court.
As the hearing began, every spot in the 14th floor courtroom was filled, with 10 defendants in the case and their lawyers seated in the jury box. Ammon Bundy, the leader of the occupation, and co-defendant Ryan Payne sat between their lawyers at two defense tables. U.S. District Judge Robert E. Jones, who is assigned to a related case with nine co-defendants, sat in the witness stand.
A ring of more defense lawyers sat around the edges of the courtroom, with federal marshals seated on each side of the jury box. Ten of the original 16 people indicted in the alleged conspiracy appeared in court and entered not guilty pleas.
Of those, Kenneth Medenbach said he wished to represent himself and was not ready to issue a plea yet, but the judge entered a not guilty plea on his behalf. Six others waived their right to appear at the arraignment. After the judge explained their rights to a trial and their presumption of innocence, several of the defendants directly challenged her assertions."It's difficult to understand the presumption of innocence when I've spent the last month in a jail cell and led around in chains wherever I go,'' Payne said. Brown said she understood his concerns, but noted that his detention was a separate matter.