quote:A federal judge has found California resident Gary Hunt, who published the names of confidential FBI informants in the armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, in contempt of court.
U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown gave Hunt until noon Wednesday to remove the articles on his blog that reference the informants and destroy all government documents he received on the informants.
If he doesn't, he'll face more "coercive sanctions,'' the judge wrote in her 23-page ruling.
Hunt, on his online blog, alerted readers of the judge's order. But he also urged others to download the material before he removes the information.
In an online post Monday morning under the heading "Notice - Get Them While You Can,'' Hunt wrote: "At this time, it is prudent that Hunt complies with said requirement, as he stated he would during the August hearing, so he will comply. However, he will comply at the last minute.''
He wrote that his articles will be available until the judge's deadline. Brown's original protective order for the material and her new order to remove it is limited to him, "therefore there is no legal consequence for downloading and preserving for posterity, these articles."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Pam Holsinger had argued in court that it was Hunt's intent to aid the defendants in the case by outing the FBI informants online so they could be called as witnesses during one of the occupation trials.
During a November 2016 recorded phone call with Schuyler Barbeau, who was in custody in Washington on an unrelated firearms offense, Hunt said, "Right now I'm focused on exposing these informants because that's going to help the February trial." Hunt, prosecutors said, was referring to the second trial of Oregon refuge occupiers.
Barbeau had served as a security guard in support of the Bundy ranch during its standoff with federal land management agents in Nevada in 2014.
The judge cited Hunt's statement to Barbeau, as well as other evidence, in concluding that Hunt helped a defendant in the Oregon standoff case or a member of a defense team by identifying and quoting from excerpts of confidential FBI reports on the informants.
Hunt, 71, of Los Molinas, Calif., received an envelope in his mail in late summer or fall 2016 that contained a thumb drive with a note warning him not to share "this information'' and to "get rid'' of the drive, according to court records. When he opened the thumb drive, Hunt found numerous FBI reports on the agency's "confidential human sources." The documents had stamps on them that read, "Dissemination Limited by Court Order.''
Brown said the stamps on the documents made it clear to Hunt immediately that there was a court order that prohibited his receipt of and sharing of the information.
Since there's no indication that anyone on the prosecution team in the two Oregon standoff trials provided the documents to Hunt, it must have come from a defendant or a member of a defense team, either directly or indirectly through a third party, the judge concluded.
Hunt, Brown pointed out, was on the Operation Mutual Defense advisory board before the 2016 occupation, along with Ryan Payne and Jon Ritzheimer, two of the leaders of the takeover. Payne and Ritzheimer were among the 26 people indicted in the case. The two have pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy in the 41-day occupation.
As part of discovery in the case, prosecutors provided defense lawyers with redacted documents on the FBI's confidential informants who helped with the investigation of the refuge takeover, but some documents were inadvertently unredacted. The court issued an order prohibiting the sharing of the documents with anyone who wasn't a defendant in the case, attorneys or a member of a legal team.
The presence of nine informants on the eastern Oregon refuge as well as six other informants who worked on the case for the FBI came out during testimony in the first trial of occupation leaders.
The protective order was issued to shield the informants "from the risks of threats and intimidation," Brown said.
Hunt testified in court that he didn't know who sent him the material. While the judge expressed skepticism about Hunt's testimony, Brown said it wasn't necessary to know who sent it but concluded Hunt knew it originated from a defendant or member of a defense team.
After occupation leader Ammon Bundy and others were acquitted at trial last fall, Hunt quoted extensively from the FBI documents on his blog to "out" the informants and partly to assist the second round of defendants headed for trial in February, the judge concluded.
Hunt countered in testimony last month that what he told Barbeau was simply to lift his spirits while he was in jail and didn't reflect his true motive. Barbeau was sentenced Friday in federal court in Seattle to two years and three months in federal prison for possessing an unregistered firearm and possession of a machine gun.
On Jan. 5, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Oregon gave Hunt an order to "cease and desist" publication of the FBI informants, with a directive to remove the material already posted online.
Hunt initially argued that the court didn't have discretion to order him to remove the material because he was never a party to the federal conspiracy case. He also argued that the protective order violated his First Amendment rights.
But Hunt's actions "exceeded any First Amendment privilege protecting a journalist or commentator and crossed over into being a voluntary and active participant in the defense," Brown wrote.
The judge cited case law from the U.S. Supreme Court, which she said has made it clear that "an order prohibiting dissemination of discovered information before trial" doesn't require "exacting First Amendment scrutiny."
The judge found Hunt knowingly "aided and abetted" a defendant in the refuge conspiracy case and thus was in civil contempt of the protective order.
Hunt spent one week in custody earlier this year after he initially disregarded the prosecutors' order to remove the material from his blog.
Hunt was arrested in late March on a warrant that Brown signed after he skipped a hearing to explain why he shouldn't be held in civil contempt of her court order. He spent a week in the Sacramento jail.
In testimony last month, Hunt told the judge if she found him in contempt, he would comply with her orders.
As a result, Brown gave Hunt one more chance -- "an additional but final opportunity to comply with this court's protective order before the court employs other coercive sanctions."
Even if Hunt intends to appeal the judge's ruling, he must remove the material from his website and destroy any documents he has or provide them to his lawyer.
Onward and upward, airforce
Posts: 16918 | From: Tulsa | Registered: Jan 2002
I expected as much from the descendant of NAZI's.
-------------------- "The time for war has not yet come, but it will come and that soon, and when it does come, my advice is to draw the sword and throw away the scabbard." Gen. T.J. Jackson, March 1861 Posts: 15008 | From: A 059 Btn 16 FF MSC | Registered: Oct 2001