A federal court jury delivered a surprise verdict on Thursday acquitting anti-government militant leader Ammon Bundy and six followers of conspiracy charges stemming from their role in the armed takeover of a wildlife center in Oregon earlier this year. The standoff led to the shooting death of one protester, Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, by police shortly after the Bundy brothers were arrested.
The defendants also were acquitted of illegal possession of firearms in a federal facility and theft of government property, except in the case of Ryan Bundy, for whom jurors were deadlocked on the charge of theft.
The outcome marked a stinging defeat for federal prosecutors and law enforcement in a trial the defendants sought to turn into a pulpit for airing their opposition to U.S. government control over millions of acres of public lands in the West.
Outside the courthouse, supporters celebrated by shouting “Hallelujah” and reading passages from the U.S. Constitution. One man rode his horse, named Lady Liberty, in front of the courthouse carrying an American flag.