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In court over Idaho Capitol arrest, Ammon Bundy accuses government of ‘conspiring’

Idaho

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Ammon Bundy joins the Idaho Senate in prayer Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020, at the Idaho Statehouse in Boise. Shortly after the Senate convened, Bundy was arrested for the second time in less than 24 hours by Idaho State Police for violating a no-trespass order. | Darin Oswald, Idaho Statesman

BOISE (Idaho Statesman) — Ammon Bundy spoke on his own behalf at a virtual court hearing Tuesday related to his trespassing arrest at the Idaho Capitol in August.

Ada County Magistrate Judge David Manweiler listened to Bundy’s statements, warning him that anything he said in court could be used against him. The charges were filed after Bundy was arrested twice during the Idaho Legislature’s special session.

Bundy largely is asking for discovery — meaning potential evidence that could be used at trial — that he believes the state has in its possession.

Deputy prosecutor Whitney Welsh said as a defendant, Bundy does have subpoena power and could file record requests if he wanted, but he has not. She said the information he is asking for is not something the prosecution has control of, and she called his pursuit a “fishing expedition.”

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Bundy also told the judge that he does not believe the state has “legal standing” to charge him with trespassing. He argues that he and his supporters were in the Capitol building to participate in government.

The prosecution did offer him a plea deal, but as of Tuesday that had been denied by Bundy, according to Welsh.

“I in no way believe I did anything illegal and I don’t believe I did anything wrong,” Bundy said. “This is much more than just a little trespassing charge.”

Bundy went on to allege that Gov. Brad Little, House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, and Senate Pro Tempore Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, “conspired” against him.

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There is no evidence that any leaders conspired against Bundy or his group, People’s Rights.

“The governor and others has, if you will, despised our response to the COVID restrictions,” Bundy told the judge. “They have spoken about me personally, by name, our organization or network by name, and there has been an effort, a concerted effort, to combat our political stance.”

Bundy also argued that he had the right to see the judge’s face, the prosecutor’s face and the jurors’ faces, arguing that his court hearings and trial should be in-person. He repeatedly referenced his prior trial in Oregon, which, of course, was held long before the coronavirus pandemic.

Bundy has survived prior trials. He and his family have been in the news for the past five years following their involvement in two armed standoffs, one at a family ranch in Nevada in 2014 and one at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon in 2016.

The prosecution supports an in-person trial but maintains face masks should be worn for protection from the virus. Bundy and his group have repeatedly fought requirements to wear face coverings.

Manweiler said he will issue a written decision on Bundy’s motion prior to the next court date, set for 1:30 p.m. on Dec. 23.

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