Change of plea hearing set for Oregon refuge occupier


PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A change of plea hearing has been scheduled for a man arrested following the Ammon Bundy-led occupation of a national wildlife refuge in Oregon.

Jason Blomgren, 42, of Murphy, North Carolina, is set to appear in a federal courtroom in Portland on Thursday. He earlier pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to impede officers of the United States and possession of a firearm in a federal facility.

Blomgren was granted pre-trial release in March after his attorney argued that he needed to go back to North Carolina to help care for a son who has autism. Blomgren joined the occupation about a week in after reading about it online.

Court records show a federal judge approved spending for Blomgren’s transportation from North Carolina ahead of Thursday’s hearing.

More than two dozen occupiers were arrested after the 41-day standoff that ended Feb. 11. Two of them — Corey Lequieu and Eric Lee Flores — have already accepted deals in which they pleaded guilty to conspiracy in exchange for the dismissal of the firearm charge.

Prosecutors have recommended a 2 ½-year prison sentence for Lequieu, who has a prior felony, and six months of home detention for Flores, a first-time offender.

Bundy and his remaining co-defendants are scheduled to appear in court Wednesday for a status hearing in their case.

The trial is scheduled to begin with jury selection on Sept. 7, but U.S. District Court Judge Anna J. Brown on Monday granted a motion for three men to be tried later. They are Sean Anderson of Riggins, Idaho; Jake Ryan of Plains, Montana; and Jon Ritzheimer of Peoria, Arizona. All waived their right to a speedy trial, likely pushing their cases into 2017.

Brown’s order says she will wait until August to set a trial date for them and any other defendant who seeks to waive his or her right to a speedy resolution.

The armed takeover and ensuing standoff at the southeast Oregon bird sanctuary began Jan. 2 and included the fatal shooting by police of rancher and occupation spokesman Robert “LaVoy” Finicum during a traffic stop.

Bundy and his followers wanted the federal government to relinquish control of Western lands and free two Oregon ranchers imprisoned for setting fires. Those demands were not met.

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Follow Steven DuBois at twitter.com/pdxdub

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