PORTLAND, OR -- The prosecution begins presenting evidence Wednesday in the trial of seven people accused of conspiracy in the takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Federal prosecutors plan to present the case as four chapters: the events and planning that led up to the takeover, the actual takeover of the facility, the arrests and the aftermath.
The seven defendants are trying to separate themselves. Ammon Bundy's attorney says his client was a peaceful rancher who started the demonstration to protest the arson convictions of Steve and Dwight Hammond - two local ranchers sentenced to five years in prison. The protest turned into a demonstration against government over-reach. The defense contends their protest was allowed by the Constitution.
Opening statements took place Tuesday at the Federal Courthouse in Portland. The first witness scheduled to take the stand Wednesday is Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward. He's expected to testify that he feared for his life because of the things said by the defendants. The prosecution also plans to call employees of the refuge, who will offer similar testimony.
Defense attorneys plan to call several of the occupiers and a Harney County Commissioner, as they lay out their case.