Wednesday, September 7, 2016
Feds dismiss conspiracy case against Oregon standoff defendant Pete Santilli on eve of trial
On the eve of his trial, federal prosecutors in Oregon have dropped the conspiracy indictment against Peter Santilli, a self-described independent broadcaster who was present during the 41-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Harney County.
Santilli, 51, was the lone person of eight defendants set for trial this month who never stayed overnight at the federal wildlife refuge in eastern Oregon, and his attorney argued that much of the material he broadcast on his YouTube channel was protected speech under the First Amendment.
Santilli, also facing indictment stemming from the April 2014 armed standoff with federal officers near Bunkerville, Nevada, will remain in custody but be transferred to Nevada to face charges in that case.
Santilli faces more serious charges in Nevada, where he faces a 16-count indictment. He is accused of conspiring to assault federal officers, threatening officers, obstructing justice, extorting officers, and using and brandishing a firearm in relation to a crime of violence stemming from the armed standoff outside the Bundy ranch near Bunkerville.
The government alleges Santilli recruited gunmen to the ranch, helped lead an assault on U.S. Bureau of Land Management officers trying to roundup cattle on federal land, conducted reconnaissance of hotels where federal officers were staying and delivered an ultimatum to the land bureau's agent in charge to leave the impound site.