Refuge occupier Ryan Payne to remain in custody, pending sentencing

Payne co-founded two militia groups, Operation Mutual Aid and Operation Mutual Defense, to oppose the federal government, Barrow wrote in a legal brief.

That was his major mistake. “Groups” with “members” and “leaders” with their names on “rosters” don’t work. The so-called “militia” movement back during the Slick Willie days was dismantled by FBI infiltrators who would convince the leadership to do something illegal and send them to jail. 

The most workable approach nowadays is known as “open source warfare” (or the leaderless resistance). There is nothing to dismantle. It is the strategy that has put the uS Army and Marine Corps’ collective tail between their legs and cost the hapless taxpayer zillions of Federal Reserve Notes. — jtl, 419

A federal judge on Thursday denied Oregon refuge occupier Ryan Payne’s release before his Feb. 27 sentencing, saying she lacked confidence that Payne would follow court orders.

U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown cited Payne’s violation in December of her order not to have contact with co-defendants. He visited with Ammon Bundy and Jon Ritzheimer at the Bundy ranch in Nevada after a judge there declared a mistrial in the 2014 Bunkerville standoff case.

“Going to Ammon Bundy’s house to celebrate and to the Bundy ranch to celebrate were violations,” Brown said. “That’s the problem here.”

The judge also described Payne’s leadership role in organizing militia during the 2016 Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation and his inflammatory statements about working to prevent two Harney County ranchers from surrendering to serve out federal prison sentences. In addition, she noted his intimidating stance with Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward.

“It seems when he’s engaged with other people who have this attitude, defiance of federal law, he continues to make bad decisions,” the judge said.

Payne apologized for his visit to the Bundy ranch. He said he recognized that it’s in his best interest “not to affiliate with these people” and said his desire is to “repent for the deeds which I have pled guilty.”

Payne asked for the judge’s mercy.

“I agree with your assessment that my interaction with certain individuals is somewhat of an influence on my decision making,” said Payne, dressed in standard blue jail garb, as he stood beside his lawyer. “My honor and service to my country is slightly marred due to my actions. But one thing I don’t want to be marred is my integrity.”

Prosecutors expect to seek a three year and five month sentence for Payne, who has spent two years in custody after pleading guilty to federal conspiracy in the refuge takeover case and then went to Nevada to stand trial in the confrontation with federal authorities over Cliven Bundy’s cattle.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Barrow argued against Payne’s release, citing his continued opposition to federal government authority and violations of release conditions. Barrow pointed to Payne’s conduct before, during and after the armed refuge takeover.

Payne co-founded two militia groups, Operation Mutual Aid and Operation Mutual Defense, to oppose the federal government, Barrow wrote in a legal brief.

In a June 2014 interview with a Montana paper, Payne boasted about serving as Cliven Bundy’s militia liaison and having “counter sniper positions” on federal sniper positions during the April 2014 court-ordered U.S. Bureau of Land Management roundup of Bundy cattle near Bunkerville and that “if they made one wrong move , every single BLM agent in that camp would’ve died.”

Through Operation Mutual Defense, Payne helped orchestrate the takeover of the federal wildlife refuge in southeastern Oregon and proposed a plan where the militia would stand in the way of Dwight Hammond and son Steven Hammond returning to serve out five-year prison sentences for setting fires on federal land in Harney County.

In one Nov. 5, 2015, meeting Payne participated in, there was talk of a “siege on the courthouse” to support the Hammonds, according to Barrow. In a meeting 10 days later, Payne proposed kidnapping the Hammonds to prevent their surrender to prison, Barrow wrote.

Federal pretrial services officer Nick Nischik found that Payne’s GPS device indicated he traveled to Ammon Bundy’s temporary residence in Las Vegas on Dec. 22 and stayed there from 2:27 p.m. to 3:32 p.m. That night, Payne posted a Facebook photo of himself with Ritzheimer and Ammon Bundy, and the next day drove to the Bundy ranch, where he stayed about three hours, arriving shortly after 4 p.m.

Ammon Bundy, Cliven Bundy’s son, led the refuge occupation and also was on trial with Payne in the Nevada standoff. Ritzheimer pleaded guilty in the refuge occupation case to conspiracy to impede federal workers through intimidation, threat or force.

The visits violated Payne’s Oregon release condition that he have no contact with co-defendants unless in the presence of a lawyer.

Payne’s lawyer, Oregon Federal Public Defender Lisa Hay, argued that Payne has made all his court appearances, even returning on his own by commercial flight from Nevada to turn himself in to U.S. marshals in Portland in January after the the judge in Las Vegas dismissed the Bunkerville case against him.

Hay suggested that Payne’s visit with Ammon Bundy and Ritzheimer was more the result of a “miscommunication, misunderstanding.” Hay further said Payne has changed while in custody the last two years, that he had a “misguided view” of government authority and now respects federal court orders.

“He understands things differently than he did,” Hay said.

Payne just wanted to spend some time with his fiancee and children before the sentencing and would return to court, Hay said.

Being out of custody at sentencing also might allow him to surrender on his own to the federal Bureau of Prisons at a later date to start his prison term and affect where he’s sent to serve out his sentence, Hay noted.

The judge offered to consider the possibility of briefly releasing Payne after his sentencing and having him surrender to marshals later in the day, and that arrangement might provide the same benefits.

— Maxine Bernstein

mbernstein@oregonian.com
503-221-8212
@maxoregonian

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