PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A federal judge Wednesday sentenced a man to a year and a day in federal prison for digging a trench during the armed occupation of a national wildlife refuge in southeastern Oregon.
Jake Ryan of Plains, Montana, was found guilty in March 2017 of depredation of government property.
A sentence of probation and home detention seemed likely heading into Wednesday, but Ryan tried to fire his public defender, disregarded the authority of court and asserted that U.S. Attorney for Oregon Billy Williams brought false charges on behalf of an imaginary friend, the United States of America.
U.S. District Court Judge Anna Brown described Ryan’s statements as “gibberish” and agreed with prosecutor Ethan Knight to impose a prison term. Moreover, she ordered Ryan to start serving the sentence immediately.
Dozens of people occupied Malheur National Wildlife Refuge from Jan. 2 to Feb. 11, 2016, in a protest against federal control of Western lands and the imprisonment of two ranchers.
Ammon and Ryan Bundy and other key figures were arrested in a Jan. 26, 2016, traffic stop away from the refuge that ended with police fatally shooting occupation spokesman Robert “LaVoy” Finicum.
The trench dug the following day by Ryan and another man contained artifacts important to the Burns Paiute Tribe.
Ryan addressed a tribal representative Wednesday, saying he loves the rich history of Native Americans and wouldn’t have dug a trench in that spot if he had known it was a burial site. Ryan said the trench was only dug in self-defense, because the occupiers were surrounded by a government authorities “armed to the teeth.”
The trial in which Ryan was convicted came months after Ammon and Ryan Bundy were found not guilty in a separate trial. In another case, a federal judge recently dismissed charges against the Bundys and their father, Cliven, in relation to a 2014 standoff with federal agents in Nevada.
Fresh off their Nevada victory, Cliven and Ryan Bundy appeared last weekend at a “Freedom and Property” rally in Montana. The emcee of the event was Jake Ryan’s mother, Roxsanna.
Jake Ryan’s father, Daniel Ryan, told reporters before Wednesday’s sentencing that seeing Ryan Bundy act as his own attorney in two victories against government attorneys influenced his son’s decision to represent himself.
But Judge Brown wouldn’t go along with it. When she questioned Ryan if he was capable of making legal arguments, he repeatedly replied that he was a living soul — a man capable of handling his own affairs — and that Jake Ryan was a fictitious identity created by the government.
“You are removing me from standing on my own two feet,” Ryan said after the judge kept public defender Jesse Merrithew on the case.