PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A juror dismissed from the panel that acquitted the leaders of an armed occupation at an Oregon wildlife refuge said he had a conflict with another juror who wrongly suggested he might be biased.
Curt Nickens left the jury Wednesday, the day before the panel and an alternate found the defendants not guilty of charges stemming from the 41-day standoff this winter.
Nickens, a former Bureau of Land Management worker, told The Oregonian/OregonLive on Friday (http://bit.ly/2e6bssa ) that he was dismissed after another juror sent a note to the judge suggesting Nickens might not be impartial because of his former job.
Nickens says he "butted heads" with the juror.
He says he saw merit in prosecutors' argument that the defendants conspired to keep federal workers from their jobs but also doubted the evidence against at least one defendant.
Nickens didn't return phone calls from The Associated Press.
Meanwhile, an attorney says jurors who acquitted the seven defentants 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 email 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.
A lawyer for Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy says he believes jurors saw through government efforts to brand the occupiers as terrorists.
Joel Hansen called the Oregon acquittal of Bundy's sons, Ammon and Ryan, and five others a triumph for liberty against the oppressive U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
Hansen said Friday that he hopes for the same result in the criminal case against the Bundys in a 2014 armed standoff at the father's ranch. It's set for trial in February.
Hansen also heads the Independent American political party in Nevada. He says he sees "seething anger" about how the federal government oversees vast stretches of land in Western states.
He says farmers, ranchers, miners, loggers and Native Americans are being "managed off" public land.
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell says she's "profoundly disappointed" by the jury's verdict.
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.
One of the jurors who acquitted Ammon and Ryan Bundy emailed a Portland, Oregon, newspaper to say the prosecution failed to prove the fundamental elements of a conspiracy charge.
In his message to The Oregonian/OregonLive (http://bit.ly/2fnsow6), Juror No. 4 said the panel spoke with U.S. District Judge Anna Brown after the verdict and asked why the federal government chose the conspiracy charge when prosecuting those who spent weeks occupying a bird sanctuary in southeast Oregon.
The juror said he learned a possible alternate charge, criminal trespass, wouldn't have brought as serious a potential penalty.
The juror wrote he is baffled by the negative response from observers shocked by the acquittals, saying "don't they know that 'not guilty' does not mean innocent>"
He says the jurors were aware their verdict might inspire future lawbreaking, but they had to focus on the charge before them.
The names of the jurors are not public.
Meanwhile, Ammon Bundy's lawyer will be back in Oregon next year, this time as the accused.
In a bizarre ending to the trial, Marcus Mumford was wrestled to the ground by U.S. marshals and arrested after repeatedly yelling at a judge to let his client go free. U.S. District Judge Anna Brown said Bundy couldn't leave because he's going to a Nevada jail to face charges there.
The U.S. Marshals Service says Mumford was cited for failure to comply with a federal lawful order and disturbance. He was released with a Jan. 6 date to return to court.
Supervising deputy Eric Wahlstrom told The Oregonian/OregonLive that Mumford was shocked with a stun gun in a dry-stun mode. It was placed against him, but no probes were fired into his body.
Mumford told reporters he grew up on a farm and is used to rough treatment.