U.S. District Court Judge Anna Brown sentenced defendant Darryl Thorn on Tuesday to a year and a half in federal prison followed by three years supervised release for his role in last year’s occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
Following prison time, Brown ordered Thorn be released to a halfway house for up to 90 days.
In March, a jury found Thorn guilty of conspiracy to impede federal officers as well as carrying a firearm in a federal facility. Both are felonies. Brown also found Thorn guilty of two misdemeanors: trespassing and tampering with vehicles and equipment.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ethan Knight asked Brown to sentence Thorn to 27 months in prison. Thorn’s defense attorney, Jay Nelson, asked for a sentence of supervised release.
“Mr. Thorn, this doesn’t get any easier, the more I look at the issue,” Brown said in handing down her sentence.
Prior to his trial, prosecutors offered Thorn a deal: He could plead guilty to trespassing, a misdemeanor, and they would dismiss the other charges. Thorn instead decided to go to trial.
During the trial, prosecutors presented evidence of Thorn holding firearms on the refuge and performing what they described as guard duty from inside a refuge fire tower.
During one video shown at trial, Thorn is seen in the refuge bunkhouse, sitting on a bar stool smoking a cigarette. The video was taken just after police shot and killed occupation spokesman LaVoy Finicium, after he fled police. The remaining occupiers were fearful, trying to decide whether to stay or leave.
“All I see is a bunch of salty motherf------,” Thorn said in the video. “We came here for one reason and that’s to fight.”
Another occupation leader, Blaine Cooper, suggests in the video leaving the refuge in a firetruck and heading for Idaho to regroup. Cooper said they could put five armed people on the truck and “if they try and follow us, lay lead down.”
Thorn is heard disagreeing with the plan.
Prior to Thorn’s sentencing hearing, Nelson provided the judge with a detailed mental health evaluation. While the report wasn’t released publicly, aspects of it were discussed in court.
Nelson described Thorn’s childhood as “appalling” as well as “hard to listen to” and “hard to read.” Several times, he said that Thorn had no one to teach him right from wrong.
Nelson said Thorn suffers from “cognitive issue” and has a history of substance abuse.
Judge Brown said she took those factors into account in handing down her sentence. But she added that while it helped explain his conduct at the refuge, his background did not justify his actions.
“I’m giving you the benefit, Mr. Thorn, of every favorable inference,” she said, adding that if he had future run-ins with the law, other judges likely wouldn’t be as lenient.
Thorn’s pretrial release was revoked in April after he threatened to hang himself on Facebook and also threatened his then girlfriend.
“This has been a two years of hell,” Thorn said in court Tuesday. “I have a life. I have a family that I would like to get back to ... If you determine you want to impose more time on me, I accept that.”
In handing down her sentence, Brown noted things Thorn did not say.
“I haven’t heard you say you’re sorry for being engaged at the refuge,” Brown said. “I’m not asking you to say those things. I’m just noting what wasn’t said.”
Prior to the start of the hearing, defendant Duane Ehmer, who Brown sentenced to 12 months and one day behind bars, rode his horse Hellboy along the sidewalk outside the Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse in downtown Portland in support of Thorn.
“Tell Darryl I love him,” Ehmer said.
Andrew Kohlmetz, the defense attorney for Jason Patrick, relayed the message inside in the courtroom.
“Duane is outside,” Kohlmetz told Thorn in court prior to the hearing. “He says he loves you.”
“Does he have Hellboy out there?” Thorn asked.
Kohlmetz nodded yes.
“Yeah!” Thorn said. “That’s what I’m talking about.”