The leader or the armed occupation of an Oregon wildlife refuge and 15 others pleaded not guilty to federal charges Wednesday, although several said in court they doubt they are being presumed innocent.
Ammon Bundy, his brother Ryan, and 14 others face a charge of conspiracy to impede officers of the United States stemming from the 41-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns that began on Jan. 2.
After U.S. District Judge Anna Browm reminded them they are innocent until proven guilty, four expressed skepticism.
"It's difficult to understand presumption of innocence when I've spent the last month in a jail cell and been led around in shackles and chains," defendant Ryan Payne said.
Another, Jason Patrick, told the judge: "You’re the federal government, you’re going to do what you want."
Ammon and Ryan Bundy and others allegedly took over the wildlife refuge on Jan. 2 following a protest over the jail sentences of two local ranchers convicted of burning public land, and the armed occupation lasted for weeks.
The Bundys and three others were arrested after officers stopped their vehicles on a highway on Jan. 26, more than three weeks after the occupation began. One occupier, Robert "LaVoy" Finicum, was shot and killed by police during the encounter.
Four other holdouts remained at the refuge — despite Ammon Bundy’s urging to surrender — until they gave themselves up on Feb. 11.
On Wednesday, the FBI ended evidence collection at the refuge and turned it back over to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, federal prosecutors said in court documents.
The Oregonian newspaper this week estimated that the armed occupation and law enforcement response cost more than $3 million in taxpayer funds. That estimate included the wages paid to Burns schools employees while schools were closed for a week after the occupation began.