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Portland, Ore. • A man who left the Tulalip Indian Reservation in Washington state to participate in the armed takeover of a national wildlife refuge was sentenced Thursday to five months of home detention and two years on probation.
If Eric Lee Flores stays out of trouble for three months, he can apply to be released from the final two months of detention, U.S. District Judge Anna Brown said at the hearing in downtown Portland.
Flores, 23, traveled to Oregon in January 2016 to perform guard duty during the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy in June 2016, months before the autumn trial in which occupation leader Ammon Bundy and six others were acquitted.
Defense attorney Ernie Warren said Flores had no prior arrests and thought he was going to a protest in support of the First Amendment. He said Flores has a child who's almost 2, and has been working hard at a fish hatchery and other jobs while awaiting sentencing.
"This has brought embarrassment to him, his family and to his tribe," Warren said.
Though Flores brought two rifles and five handguns to the refuge, Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Gabriel described him as one of the least culpable members of the occupation. His early acceptance of responsibility was a big reason prosecutors did not seek a prison sentence, Gabriel said.
Flores spent a month in jail after his arrest and told the judge he didn't want to go back there.
"Remember that next time you see an invitation on Facebook that tells you to do something your good conscience tells you not to do," Brown said.
More than two dozen men and women answered Bundy's call to occupy the refuge in a protest against federal control of Western lands and the imprisonment of two ranchers convicted of setting fires
Though Bundy was acquitted, a total of 14 people pleaded guilty to occupation-related charges and another four were convicted by a jury in a second trial. The judge plans a fall hearing to decide how to divvy up restitution.