Ammon Bundy is previewing his legal defense, and it is just as crazy as his rationale for the Malheur Wildlife Refuge takeover in the first place.
His defense team is expected to argue in federal court that the federal government has no jurisdiction over the Malheur Wildlife Refuge and therefore cannot prosecute Bundy and dozens of others for their 2016 takeover of the preserve.
The defense is the same kind of bogus constitutionalist theory advocated by the extremists who took over Malheur in January. The defense strategy gives insight into just how Bundy and others may tackle a slew of federal criminal charges against them, which include conspiracy and firearms possession in a federal facility as well as others. Throughout the 41-day occupation, individuals holed up at Malheur claimed they were fighting to restore the land back to the people who rightfully owned it.
“The motion to dismiss in this case will challenge the Federal Government’s authority to assert ownership over the land that is now known as the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge,” Bundy’s defense attorneys wrote in a court filing Friday asking for more time to file a motion to dismiss the charges against him for lack of jurisdiction. It was first flagged by the Oregonian. “It is Defendant’s position that this authority is critical to the Federal Government’s authority to have federal employees work on that land. Jurisdiction in this case will determine whether the Federal Government can prosecute protesters for being there at all.”
According to the documents filed Friday, Bundy’s defense will argue that the Constitution was “only intended to give broad federal power of property in Territories, as the Founders contemplated the expansion westward.”
“Once statehood occurred for Oregon, Congress lost the right to own the land inside the state,” the defense argued in the brief.
Bundy’s defense is expected to argue in court that Malheur was not federal land because it had been doled out to homesteaders and was “relinquished.” It is also expected to “provide evidence about foundational documents from the Federal Convention of 1787.”
This is not the first time that there has been a battle over whether Malheur is federal land in court. The Supreme Court has actually ruled twice on the matter. They ruled once in 1902 and once again in 1935.
Jennifer Rokala, the executive director for the Center for Western Priorities, a group that has fought to preserve the sanctity of federal lands, said she was pretty skeptical the Bundy defense would be successful.
“We look forward to Ammon Bundy’s attempt to re-litigate 200 years of jurisprudence regarding the property clause, and the 1935 Supreme Court case that specifically established the American people’s ownership of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge,” she said in a press release.