Ammon Bundy's Latest Standoff Is in Court

Far-right activist is defying court orders in a defamation case
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 8, 2023 4:25 PM CDT
Ammon Bundy's Latest Standoff Is in Court
Anti-government activist Ammon Bundy is wheeled from the Idaho Statehouse in Boise, Idaho, Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020, following an arrest for trespassing.   (AP Photo/Keith Ridler, File)

A far-right activist known for his showdowns with federal and state law enforcement in Oregon and Nevada is waging a one-sided standoff of a different kind after refusing to comply with court orders in an Idaho defamation lawsuit, per the AP. The lawsuit by St. Luke's Regional Health accuses Ammon Bundy and associate Diego Rodriguez of making defamatory statements against the hospital and its employees after Rodriguez's infant grandson was temporarily removed from his family and taken to St. Luke's amid health concerns. Since then, Bundy has ignored court orders related to the lawsuit, filed trespassing complaints against people hired to deliver legal paperwork, and called on scores of his followers to camp at his home for protection when he learned he might be arrested on a warrant for a misdemeanor charge of contempt of court.

“We can build a defense system from here. ... This is what is going to keep us safe from all the terrible things that are going to come upon us and throughout the world,” Bundy told dozens of people gathered at his home in late April, according to a video posted to Facebook. Bundy’s rhetoric is similar to how he spoke during his armed standoffs with federal law enforcement in Nevada and Oregon years ago. But this time Bundy hasn’t gained the same traction. The initial gathering of dozens appears to have ebbed to a handful. In 2016, Bundy led a 41-day armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Oregon, to protest the arson convictions of two ranchers who set fires on federal land where they had been grazing their cattle.

The 2014 Nevada confrontation was led by Bundy’s father, rancher Cliven Bundy. Ammon Bundy was acquitted of criminal charges in Oregon, and the Nevada criminal case ended in a mistrial. Bundy and his People's Rights organization next drew attention for a series of protests at the Idaho Statehouse over coronavirus-related measures and he was temporarily banned from the government building in 2020. In the current civil suit, Bundy seems to be following a “blueprint,” using rhetoric similar to that used in the Oregon and Nevada standoffs to escalate the conflict, said Devin Burghess, the director of the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights. Burghess has been hired by St. Luke’s attorneys to serve as an expert witness in the defamation lawsuit.

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“Bundy has attempted to take the lawsuit and make it into something larger. If he’s able to take this trial and turn it into a larger confrontation, that could be very problematic,” Burghess said. Bundy, meanwhile, recently told followers that he would rather “go back to Heavenly Father” than return to jail. He maintains he won’t stop making the allegedly defamatory statements against St. Luke’s Regional Medical Center regardless of any court ruling, because he claims his liberty is at stake. “I believe it’s my absolute right to be able to say those things,” Bundy told the AP in April.

(More Ammon Bundy stories.)

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