Interior Secretary "disappointed" over acquittal; cautions DOI employees to be watchful

Posted at 2:57 PM, Oct 28, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-28 16:57:50-04

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell says she's "profoundly disappointed" by a jury's decision to acquit several key figures in the armed occupation of a national wildlife refuge in Oregon last winter.

In a message Friday to all Interior Department employees, Jewell says she's concerned about the verdict's potential effect on workers and on the effective management of public lands.

She encourages employees to take care of themselves and their co-workers, stay vigilant and report any suspicious activity to supervisors and, if appropriate, law enforcement.

Jewell's message notes that she visited the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge after the occupation and found it disheartening to survey the damage.

The occupiers contend they improved the refuge, and law enforcement caused damage during the investigation.

Meantime, an attorney says jurors who acquitted key figures in the occupation of an Oregon wildlife refuge may have been baffled by the charges, echoing what a juror told a newspaper.

Craig Drummond says a conspiracy case, which the occupiers faced, isn't like a murder case. There's no certainty a jury will see what prosecutors are trying to prove.

The juror wrote in an e-mail to The Oregonian/OregonLive on Friday that the government failed to prove fundamental elements of a conspiracy charge. The juror said prosecutors could've charged the occupiers with criminal trespassing, which carries a lesser penalty.

Drummond formerly represented a co-defendant of rancher Cliven Bundy in a Nevada criminal case stemming from a 2014 armed standoff with federal agents.

Bundy's sons were acquitted in Oregon, but still face charges in Nevada.