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Ammon Bundy has added a second Utah defense attorney white-collar crimes lawyer Marcus Mumford to his legal team working to prove that Bundy did not break the law when he and fellow anti-federal-government protesters staged an armed occupation of an Oregon wildlife refuge.
Mumford is the counsel to the Utah Republican Party and has represented several high-profile clients in recent years, including winning acquittals on fraud charges for Rick Koerber and securing the release of Marc Sessions Jenson, one of the accusers in the scandal involving former attorneys general Mark Shurtleff and John Swallow.
Mumford said he had been contacted by Bundy's current legal team and members of his family to consult on Bundy's defense and later was asked to take a more active role in the case.
"They didn't see the defense developing and wanted a little bit of a different direction," Mumford said.
Two weeks ago, Bundy also hired Morgan Philpot, a former state legislator and current candidate for Utah Senate. Mumford said the two likely will travel to and from Oregon frequently to work on the defense.
Mumford said one of their top priorities will be to try to have Bundy released from prison, where Mumford said he and his co-defendants are in solitary confinement and cannot discuss their case with their attorneys without prison officials nearby.
He said it also appears that confidential communication between Bundy and his attorneys has been turned over to prosecutors in the case, which is a violation of Bundy's attorney-client privilege.
Bundy is charged with weapons violations and conspiracy to impede officers. He and 25 others were arrested in connection with a 41-day armed occupation of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Burns, Ore., in January and February. The defendants have said they were protesting in support of two ranchers who were ordered to return to prison to fulfill a mandatory minimum sentence for a series of fires on federal lands.
Mumford said the defense will deal with fundamental free speech issues; they plan to argue that Bundy and others did not break the law during the occupation.
"We're talking about fundamental issues of whether a citizen can assert their rights regarding the public lands without being accused of a conspiracy," Mumford said. "The prosecution appears to be more politically motivated than motivated by criminal law."
Mumford said that on the morning Bundy was arrested, there was communication "among the highest levels of the federal government" saying that Bundy needed to be stopped because "the cancer is spreading."
"In other words, they were being too effective in their political protest, so the government had to come in and accuse these men of a criminal act to discredit their political speech," he said.
Mumford also says it is misleading to characterize Bundy's actions as an "armed occupation." Instead, he said, the protesters were merely "open carrying" their weapons.
"There was no brandishing or anything," he said. "We're talking about the distinctions the law has to make. It can't be illegal just because you go in to establish an adverse possession claim against the government and you happen to be open carrying; that doesn't make it an armed invasion."
A status conference in the case is scheduled for June 15. A trial date is tentatively set for September.