Three Malheur Refuge defendants plead guilty to trespassing

Avoided trial scheduled for next week

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Three of the remaining seven defendants charged in the armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge took plea deals Monday rather than go to trial next week.

Sean and Sandra Anderson, a married couple from Riggins, Idaho, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor trespassing in exchange for other charges being dismissed. Dylan Anderson of Provo, Utah, took the same step, and all three were sentenced to a year on probation.

A fourth defendant was scheduled to change his plea Monday, but the hearing was canceled.

A total of 26 people were indicted on federal conspiracy and weapons charges after taking over the refuge early last year in a protest against the imprisonment of two ranchers convicted of setting fires.

Eleven defendants pleaded guilty last year and charges were dropped against one man.

In a trial last fall, jurors acquitted standoff leader Ammon Bundy and six others.

Meanwhile, jury selection has begun in federal court in Nevada for trial of the first six defendants accused of taking up arms against federal agents herding cattle off public land near cattleman Cliven Bundy's ranch in April 2014.

About 10 flag-waving protesters marked the start of proceedings Monday outside the courthouse in Las Vegas, showing support for the jailed rancher and his philosophy that states own the land, not the federal government.

A similar number of counter-protesters organized by a conservation advocacy group, brought a bullhorn and signs declaring public lands should stay public.

In the courtroom, opening statements are expected later this week for a trial that's expected to take weeks or months.

The six facing the jury first are characterized as the least culpable "followers and gunmen" among the 19 defendants the case.

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