Whether they’ll admit it or not, many Oregonians harbor a fondness for Donald Trump. But only one tried to become him.
William Trump Jr., 45, owns Spa World, a hot-tub store in Medford. He has been involved in a few scrapes. There was a car repossession gone bad that resulted in a criminal conviction. Hot-tub purchasers have also filed lawsuits periodically complaining about his products. But his biggest legal battle was in 2000—when he sought to take Trump’s name.
1. He was born Chad Michael Milligan. Milligan stands 5-feet-5 and weighs 110 pounds, according to Oregon DMV records. But he dreamed big, opening his first hot-tub store in Brookings, on the south coast, back in 1989, when he was just 18.
2. His hero growing up was Donald J. Trump. He says he read all of Trump’s books, and wore power suits and ties. That wardrobe stood out in Medford. “People used to call me ‘Trump,’” he says.
3. He tried to change his name on Nov. 7, 2000. He went to Jackson County Court and filed the paperwork to change his name to Donald Trump Jr. But Oregon has a name-change waiting period, during which outside parties can object. “The court clerk said, ‘You’re never going to guess who objected—Donald Trump!”
4. They worked out a deal. Donald Trump wanted $30 million for the name. “He said he would concede if I’d choose a different first name,” then-Milligan says. “I asked him what worked for him. He called me back and said ‘William.’” Thus, on March 1, 2001, Medford’s hot-tub king became William Trump Jr.
5. Sir William Trump Jr. is voting for Donald Trump. He proudly planted a Trump-Pence lawn sign in his yard. “It changed my life,” William Trump says of his new name. “You have to live up to his standards—and some people, they’re afraid of you.”
U.S. Attorney for Oregon Billy Williams arrived on the ninth floor of the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse on Oct. 27 with a smile on his face.
A jury had taken just six hours to reach a verdict in the biggest case of Williams’ career. It was the decisive moment in a 10-month saga that caused $6 million in damage to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and left one man dead.
Trial observers thought a guilty verdict was a foregone conclusion. The only question: Would all seven defendants be found guilty of conspiracy, or just Ammon Bundy, the ringleader of the 41-day refuge takeover?
Williams chatted with Greg Bretzing, FBI special agent in charge of Oregon, and the press like he was at a cocktail party. He invited a half-dozen reporters to a 9 am press conference the next morning at his office.
Williams never showed up for that press conference.
He and Bretzing fled the courtroom as soon as Judge Anna J. Brown read the verdicts: not guilty on all counts, a staggering defeat for the top federal prosecutor in the most high-profile criminal case Oregon has seen this century.
Tung Yin, a professor of criminal law at Lewis & Clark Law School, says prosecutors must be in shock.
“If you are the government, you have to be asking, ‘How did we get it so wrong?’” Yin says.
Numerous theories have been bandied about in the wake of the Bundy acquittal. National pundits have blamed a jury susceptible to anti-government sentiment, implicit bias favoring white defendants, and an FBI that allowed the Malheur occupation to operate unchecked for nearly six weeks.
But for close observers, the Bundy case is merely the latest misstep for a prosecutor’s office defined for the past five years by overreach and bungling.
The office is still reeling from the downfall of former U.S. Attorney for Oregon Amanda Marshall, who resigned last year after an affair with her top drug prosecutor, Scott Kerin. Half a dozen senior assistant U.S. attorneys retired early during or shortly after Marshall’s tenure, stripping the office of valuable experience. Williams replaced Marshall on an interim basis, and legal observers say he’s failed to right the office’s course—citing last week’s verdict as an example.
“This just struck me as more of the same arrogance and plodding ahead without much concern with other people’s concerns and perspectives,” says criminal defense lawyer Richard L. Wolf, who has tried murder cases against Williams’ team but wasn’t involved in the Bundy case.
Williams declined to comment but told The Oregonian he had commended his prosecutors for a “job well done.”
To be sure, lawyers sometimes lose big cases. But the fateful choices made by Williams’ team are in keeping with patterns that have been long apparent in the Hatfield building.
Bear Wilner-Nugent, a Portland criminal defense lawyer who practices in federal court, says there’s little chance Williams will receive a permanent appointment to his job from the next U.S. president.
“I’m not sure why he’d want to keep the job,” says Wilner-Nugent, “but to the extent that any further black mark is needed against Billy’s office, this verdict provided it.”
Here’s where prosecutors got lost—and Williams probably lost any hope of keeping his job.
That is reflective of an office that uses its tools aggressively. As WW reported last year, U.S. Department of Justice figures show the U.S. attorney for Oregon is a prodigious user of wiretaps, deploying the most invasive tool in law enforcement’s arsenal far more often than districts with much larger populations and criminal caseloads.
That aggressiveness was reflected in prosecutors’ decision to bet almost exclusively on a little-used conspiracy charge against Malheur defendants who had widely varying degrees of involvement.
Wilner-Nugent echoes many observers in questioning why prosecutors didn’t hedge their bets by also filing lesser charges, including trespassing and destruction of property.
“They pursue overlapping and redundant charges normally. It doesn’t make a lot of sense why they didn’t do that in this case,” Wilner-Nugent says. “They went for the whole enchilada or nothing.”
The conspiracy charge, a felony, carried a longer potential sentence. But conviction required proving that defendants knowingly plotted together to achieve a specific outcome—preventing federal employees from working.
“The conspiracy charge was absolutely the problem,” says Matt Schindler, attorney for Ken Mendenbach, one of the defendants acquitted last week. “They just couldn’t prove it. It didn’t fit the evidence they had. They didn’t have a box to fit this one in, and they couldn’t adapt. That’s not their strong suit.”
Mike Arnold was Ammon Bundy’s attorney before Marcus Mumford took over Bundy’s defense in May. Arnold says Bundy offered to plead guilty to criminal trespass the day after he was arraigned.
“They rejected my offer on day two that could have gotten us all out of this quickly and inexpensively,” Arnold said. “They laughed. But OK, go put on your dog-and-pony show and get your ass handed to you.”
Williams’ spokesman, Kevin Sonoff, said the office stands by its use of the conspiracy charge, “as it is the most appropriate and applicable federal charge given the severity of their actions.” He declined further comment.
They were politically naive.
Even in the harshest possible interpretation of Ammon Bundy’s motives, the case against him and his associates was highly political—it was about who owns public lands.
But the government’s lead prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ethan Knight, ignored politics.
Knight told the jury that Bundy and his followers’ ultraconservative beliefs about the rightful role of the federal government under the Constitution were irrelevant.
“The government doesn’t dispute that they hold these beliefs,” Knight said. “But at the end of the day, you can’t conspire to take somebody else’s work space and say, ‘You’re no longer welcome to work here, go home.’”
In a typical conspiracy case, the government uses co-conspirators who have already pleaded guilty to testify that a conspiracy existed and they were part of it.
The prosecution’s only witness who might have played that role, a retired Burns electrician named Butch Eaton who rode out to the refuge with Ryan Bundy and watched Bundy supporters seize the refuge, took the stand with a copy of the Constitution poking out of his pocket.
Eaton teared up as he described his admiration for the defendants. He called them “a loving, hugging brotherhood” and said they changed his political views. “In some people’s eyes, I was a puss. I left. Their convictions were stronger than mine,” Eaton said. “They shouldn’t be here.”
That meant the only government witness who was not a federal employee became a star witness for the defense.
That baffling decision incurred the wrath of Oregon’s congressional delegation. Williams dropped the case after condemnation from U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), among others.
Ignoring the larger political context may have cost prosecutors the Bundy case.
“The heart of this case was frustration about poverty,” says Per Olson, who represented the defendant David Fry. “You’ve got people living in close proximity to resources—federal lands—that could provide them an income and even wealth. They missed that.”
They were arrogant.
Defense lawyers paraded a stream of Bundy supporters onto the stand. Witness after witness told the jury they were warmly received when visiting the refuge occupiers—undermining the idea that the defendants were dangerous.
Ammon Bundy himself testified for three days. He detailed the mechanics of adverse possession, a legal process he claimed allows him to seize ownership of federal property. He told the jury the occupation was motivated by his enormous love for his family and his country.
Bundy’s attorney, Mumford, painted him as a valiant patriot fighting against a government contemptuous of his point of view.
One of Mumford’s presentation slides read: “Being ignored: The worst feeling ever.”
Mumford created a powerful narrative the government didn’t bother countering.
Knight, the prosecutor, answered Bundy’s three-day testimony with just 15 minutes of cross-examination. It was as if there were no need to undercut Bundy’s story.
“They completely overvalued the strength of the case because a bunch of yes men that all agree with each other came up with a strategy,” Arnold says. “And they were wrong.”
In 2014, Judge Ancer Haggerty excoriated the U.S. Attorney’s Office in another high-profile case that appeared to be a slam dunk. In that case, the quadruple-murder trial of white supremacist Joey Pedersen, Haggerty found that prosecutors led by Williams, then the office’s criminal chief, took a dismissive attitude toward defendants and failed to share evidence with defense lawyers.
Pedersen was convicted but Haggerty said those errors reflected “systemic problems likely to recur absent corrective actions.”
Only Williams knows if those corrective actions were taken. But after Haggerty admonished his team, Williams went on to charge Devontre Thomas in the marijuana case—and preside over a trial that some people fear will embolden Bundy sympathizers across the country.
“Billy just did what U.S. attorneys do,” says Lisa Ludwig, standby counsel for Ryan Bundy, Ammon’s brother. “Public humiliations and trial losses are the only things that get their wings clipped even for a little while. Then they just weather the news cycle and keep doing what they are doing.”
CORRECTION: This story incorrectly stated that prosecutors spent nearly $12 million preparing for the Bundy trial. In fact, U.S. Attorney for Oregon Billy Williams told The Oregonian that law enforcement agencies spent that figure responding to the Malheur occupation. WW regrets the error.
The flag burning appears related to a Don’t Shoot Portland protest at Portland State University. Organizer Gregory McKelvey said that demonstration is designed to call attention to the unequal treatment of armed white militants and unarmed minority protesters.
“We have witnessed this disparity via the Bundy trial in comparison to the treatment of peaceful protestors at the North Dakota Access Pipeline,” McKelvey wrote. “What if we would have staged an armed occupation of City Hall? We came to City Hall to testify and we were beaten for it.”
Protesters are also rallying for a write-in campaign for Don’t Shoot Portland organizer Teressa Raiford for Multnomah County Sheriff.
Portland Mayor-elect Ted Wheeler’s campaign promise to restrict no-cause evictions of tenants faces roadblocks, including legal opinions issued this month by attorneys for the Oregon Legislature.
But the city could legally pass a law to bill landlords for tenants’ moving costs stemming from evictions without cause on month-to-month leases.
That legal opinion was issued by the Legislative Counsel to House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland) in July, first reported in Murmurs on Wednesday. (Here’s the full opinion.)
In their budget proposal for next year, the Portland Housing Bureau has proposed setting up a registry for all landlords in the city as a precursor to mandatory inspections of properties.
“It’s our duty to be more assertive,” says bureau director Kurt Creager, noting the housing “needs to be decent safe and sanitary.”
The registry could also lay the groundwork for changes related to protecting tenants. At this point, no one tracks “no cause” evictions, which don’t necessarily go through the court.
Wheeler says he’s contemplating moving forward with parts of his agenda.
“There are likely parts of my vision that we can implement now without legislative changes, and that’s part of what we are evaluating during our transition,” Wheeler says, noting he’s pushing for the Legislature to act in 2017 so he can “implement my full vision for ‘just cause.'”
John DiLorenzo, a lawyer representing large landlords, says a relocation fee could be challenged in court—and suggests he would do so.
DiLorenzo argues a relocation fees could potentially function as a ban on no cause evictions, which landlords have a right to under the law.
“At that point, does the hypothetical relocation fee become tantamount to a ban?” he says. “This is an issue that the [Legislative Counsel] opinion does not discuss and one which would certainly be raised in litigation over such a hypothetical ordinance.”
The Audubon Society of Portland joined several Western environmental groups in decrying the acquittal of Ammon Bundy as a precedent that could embolden extremists to seize public lands like the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
“Important restoration work on these public lands was disrupted, federal employees were intimidated, and today—more than ten months after the occupation—the public is still not able to access refuge headquarters,” Audubon’s conservation director Bob Sallinger said in a statement this morning. “Taxpayers have been left with a bill that is expected to exceed $6 million. Regardless of the verdict, the occupation of Malheur remains an attack on public lands and resources.”
“We also cannot ignore the disparities in the manner in which armed occupiers of public lands at Malheur were handled relative to the current treatment of unarmed Native American-led Dakota Access Pipeline protests on their own lands at Standing Rock,” Sallinger wrote. “The two situations reveal deeply troubling inequities.”
The Audubon Society of Portland joins two other conservation groups that decried the acquittal within minutes of the verdict: the Colorado-based Center for Western Priorities and the Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity.
“This is an extremely disturbing verdict for anyone who cares about America’s public lands, the rights of native people and their heritage, and a political system that refuses to be bullied by violence and racism,” said Kierán Suckling, the Center for Biological Diversity’s executive director. “The Bundy clan and their followers peddle a dangerous brand of radicalism aimed at taking over lands owned by all of us. I worry this verdict only emboldens the kind of intimidation and right-wing violence that underpins their movement.”
Suckling told reporter Leah Sottile this morning that he blames the FBI’s caution for leading to an acquittal—saying jurors couldn’t tell if crimes were committed because law enforcement treated the Bundys “as Boy Scouts.”
Suckling: “The FBI’s treatment of the Bundy militia as Boy Scouts for 41 days hobbled the prosecution…” (1/x)
Audubon Society of Portland is deeply disappointed by the jury’s verdict in the case of seven defendants who occupied Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in early 2016. We respect the legal process, but believe that the armed occupation of public lands, which included destruction of public property and disturbance of Native American archaeological sites, should have resulted in substantial penalties. Important restoration work on these public lands was disrupted, federal employees were intimidated, and today — more than ten months after the occupation — the public is still not able to access refuge headquarters. Taxpayers have been left with a bill that is expected to exceed $6 million. Regardless of the verdict, the occupation of Malheur remains an attack on public lands and resources.
We also cannot ignore the disparities in the manner in which armed occupiers of public lands at Malheur were handled relative to the current treatment of unarmed Native American-led Dakota Access Pipeline protests on their own lands at Standing Rock. The two situations reveal deeply troubling inequities.
Audubon Society of Portland greatly appreciates the work of public employees who staff Malheur and other public lands. Public servants should not face the risk of armed intimidation simply for doing their jobs. The verdict in the Malheur case will put public employees at greater risk of intimidation in the future. Audubon Society of Portland also greatly appreciates the community in Harney County, which largely rejected the illegal armed occupation as a way to resolve conflict.
We are still processing the verdict in the Malheur Case, but today we are committed to three paths forward. First, Portland Audubon remains committed to the collaborative process at Malheur, which started long before the occupation, continued during the occupation, and continues to this day. We look forward to continuing to work with the community, the refuge, the Burns Paiute Tribe and other conservation groups to move forward on areas of consensus and to peacefully and respectfully resolve areas of disagreement. Second, we remain steadfastly committed to protecting our public lands on the ground and in the court system. Our public lands are national treasures and they belong to us all. Third, we call on Oregon’s congressional delegation to lead legislative efforts which will ensure that there is adequate legal protection so that public lands, public employees and public access are not threatened by armed extremists.
Audubon Society of Portland’s history with Malheur dates back to our founding in 1902. October 27 was a dark day in the history of Malheur and of our public lands, but we remain confident that the outstanding collaborative processes at Malheur and America’s love and appreciation for public lands, will continue to light a path forward.
After the jury delivered the verdict, U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown made plans to release David Fry, the only Oregon defendant who was still in jail, but not charged in a related Nevada case. (Fry was released late Thursday night to a crowd of supporters who greeted him with hugs, praise and pizza.)
Brown said Bundy and his brother Ryan would remain in the custody of the U.S. Marshals, pending their transfer to Nevada.
Marshals there had placed a custody hold on the Bundy brothers, pending their scheduled February trial over charges related to the 2014 standoff at the Bunkerville ranch owned by their father, Cliven Bundy.
Bundy’s attorney Marcus Mumford didn’t find that persuasive.
Judge Brown had earlier refused to consolidate Bundy’s detention order in the Nevada case with his detention in Oregon, finding that she had no authority over orders made by the federal court in Las Vegas.
Marcus Philpot, co-counsel for Bundy, said later that it was Mumford and Bundy’s position that the judge had either absolute authority over Bundy’s detention status or she had none.
“If you don’t have authority to consolidate, then how do you have the authority to detain him?” Philpot asked. “Our argument is that is illegal. And that’s the discussion that Marcus wanted to have. It’s a legal distinction that he should have been allowed to have with the judge without any expectation that the marshals would assault him and Tase him for doing it.”
Mumford began to argue that case to Brown following the verdict.
“If they want him, they know where to find him,” Mumford told the judge. “I don’t see any paper proving their authority to hold him.”
Mumford continued to argue for Bundy’s immediate release, leaping to his feet and raising his voice.
Judge Brown, who often seemed exasperated by Mumford during the roughly six-week trial, wasn’t having it.
“You really need to not yell at me, now or ever again,” Brown said.
That’s when the marshals started to close in from all directions.
Mumford seemed surprised by their response, looking around and asking, “What are you all doing?” The biggest, tallest marshal stood inches from Mumford’s face.
“You need to stand down,” he said.
“Take a step back, gentlemen,” Brown said.
But Mumford continued to press his point.
“No, your honor,” he yelled. “He is acquitted.”
About half a dozen marshals piled atop him.
“Everyone out!” Judge Brown ordered.
Philpot said after the verdict announcement that the scene was a perfect example of the sort of government tyranny Ammon Bundy was trying to fight when he led the January armed seizure of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge that caused an estimated $6 million in damage and left dozens in jail and one man killed by Oregon State Police.
“There was insufficient provocation,” Philpot said. “They assaulted an attorney that had made no aggressive move whatsoever – threw him to the ground and Tased him—which is very symbolic of the federal government’s over-violent and aggressive actions that led up to this very trial.”
Mumford was released two hours later. Standing on the front steps of the Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse, he told press that he was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting lawful order.
Surrounded by cameras, Mumford described his version of events.
“They surrounded me and Mr. Bundy and I said if you have authority to arrest him, please show me your authority. And instead they took me down on the ground and they rammed my head into the ground and they Tased me.”
Meanwhile, multiple journalists inside the federal courtroom report that Ammon Bundy’s attorney Marcus Mumford was tackled by federal marshals after arguing with U.S. District Judge Anna Brown. Mumford was also Tased.
Philpot confirms: Mumford arrested, Tased multiple times. "You could hear him screaming as they did it." #oregonstandoff
A federal jury delivered a resounding acquittal today for the anti-government militants who occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in January, finding Ammon Bundy and his six co-defendants not guilty of conspiring to keep federal employees from doing their jobs.
Supporters of the Arizona-based rancher and his anti-government movement wept, hugged and waved American flags in the streets outside downtown Portland’s federal courthouse.
The verdict is a stunning defeat for U.S. Attorney for Oregon Billy Williams, whose legal team was unable to prove that Bundy and his allies broke any laws by turning an Eastern Oregon bird refuge into an armed fortress.
It followed the dismissal Wednesday of a juror who had previously worked for the federal Bureau of Land Management, a potential conflict that could have resulted in a mistrial.
The “not guilty” verdict capped a six-week trial filled with testimony over the political beliefs Ammon Bundy and his co-defendants claimed were the motivation for the 41-day armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown repeatedly told the jury that the defendants’ political beliefs didn’t affect their guilt or innocence.
But Ammon Bundy and several other defendants took the stand in their own defense to detail their beliefs that the Constitution prohibits the federal government from owning land, that the sentences given to two Burns-area ranchers convicted on federal arson charges were the result of government tyranny and that the 2014 standoff at Cliven Bundy’s Bunkerville ranch was a vindication of Bundy’s belief that the county sheriff is the ultimate law of the land.
Ammon Bundy’s attorney, Marcus Mumford, painted Bundy as a valiant patriot, fighting a David-and-Goliath battle against government overreach. He told the jury Bundy is in jail because of that same “dark” force.
“I hope you can see what we’ve been pushing for,” Mumford said. “What do you see? Government overreach. The government going too far. It happened to the Hammonds. You’ve heard that. But can you not see that it’s happening to Mr. Bundy as well?”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ethan Knight unsuccessfully argued that the case had nothing to do with Bundy’s regularly brandished pocket Constitution, nothing to do with the arson sentences currently being served by Dwight and Steven Hammond and nothing to do with the Bunkerville standoff, which is the subject of separate prosecution in Nevada.
“It’s not about the beliefs or values of any of these defendants,” Knight told the jury. “It’s about them deciding which laws apply and which don’t. It’s about a collective decision to take what isn’t theirs and make it theirs.”
Knight said Bundy and his co-defendants thought the law applied differently to them, that they believed they could choose which laws to follow because they were acting for the right reasons.
Bundy spent three days on the stand answering questions from his own lawyer and attorneys for his co-defendants. He patiently and exhaustively described his family life, his political beliefs and the lack of response to his demands from government officials, which he claimed justified the occupation that caused an estimated $6 million in damage to the refuge and left dozens in jail and one man dead.
Bundy told the jury he was proud of the occupation, even comparing his efforts to the work done by civil rights activists like Martin Luther King Jr.
“When M.L.K. stood, he made a hard stand,” Bundy told the jury.
Knight’s arguments were more narrowly focused.
Knight told the jury that Bundy and his six co-defendants’ ultraconservative beliefs about the rightful role of the federal government under the Constitution are irrelevant. Instead, Knight said, what mattered was whether the occupiers broke the law by conspiring to keep refuge employees from doing their jobs.
“This is not about federal land use policy,” Knight said. “It’s not about the Hammonds. The government doesn’t dispute that they hold these beliefs,” Knight said. “But at the end of the day, you can’t conspire to take somebody else’s work space and say, ‘You’re no longer welcome to work here, Go home.’”
A particularly jarring moment came when Knight delivered a blistering 15-minute cross-examination that underscored the irrelevance of most of Bundy’s testimony.
Knight mostly asked Bundy about statements he had made under direct examination.
Bundy denied or claimed not to remember events he had recently detailed. He suddenly insisted he wasn’t a leader of the occupation. He said he couldn’t remember whether he had been in Burns in November, after describing several November meetings with Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward. And he said the refuge wasn’t federal property, after outlining his foolproof plan to wrest control of federal property under the arcane process of adverse possession—a process nixed by the U.S. Supreme Court.
But his snake-charmer manner remained. Bundy backpedaled when Knight asked him about the legal process he had earlier described with enthusiasm and certainty. And he used his usual earnest tone of voice to quibble even over Knight’s most straightforward questions.
Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese says county jails still won’t hold people on immigration detainers, reaffirming the county’s position on a controversial federal program that Washington, D.C. officials have sought to reform and repackage.
Reese’s position, outlined in a Sept. 21 letter that Portland immigration activists highlighted this week, makes clear the sheriff’s office won’t hold people in jail based solely on whether they’ve violated federal, civil immigration rules.
“Holding them beyond their local charges is a violation of their 4th Amendment right,” says Lt. Chad Gaidos, a spokesman for the sheriff, referring to the guarantee against unreasonable searches and seizures.
U.S. officials in recent months have sought to reform how local law enforcement agencies cooperate with its efforts to place immigration holds on people who’ve ignored deportation orders or been caught re-entering the U.S. without proper paperwork, giving it a new name and a new focus on supposedly high-priority offenders. (The program used to be called Secure Communities; it now goes by the name Priority Enforcement Program).