Prosecutors Urge Judge To Uphold Guilty Plea From Ryan Payne

Nov 8, 2016
Originally published on May 22, 2018 7:58 pm

Attorneys for the federal government said Monday that U.S. District Court Judge Anna Brown .

Payne, 33, worked closely with Ammon Bundy and others to carry out an armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in January.

Though Bundy and seven others were acquitted of all charges related to that occupation, Payne chose to plead guilty to a federal conspiracy charge in July for his involvement.

But Payne's attorneys closely watched the trial and sought to rescind his guilty plea after it was revealed confidential informants for the government visited the refuge β€” particularly Bundy's driver, Mark McConnell, and a man named Fabio Minoggio, who helped operate a firing range at the refuge.

Federal prosecutors said in a court filing Monday that Payne hasn't clearly shown any reason why his plea should be changed.

"His plea should be denied because he has failed to identify a fair and just reason that should prompt this Court to exercise its discretion to undo his plea deal," wrote Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Gabriel.

Gabriel went on to say the revelation of Minoggio's presence at the refuge during the trial of Ammon Bundy and six others should have no bearing on Payne's plea deal.

"The video recording and Confidential Human Source information cited in defendant's Motion were produced to defense counsel prior to his guilty plea," Gabriel wrote Monday.

Another key component of the plea deal that Payne's attorney, Richard Federico, has argued against is the failure of a similar deal to materialize in Nevada β€” where Payne faces charges for his involvement in the 2014 armed standoff at Cliven Bundy's ranch near Bunkerville.

β€œThe foundation of the Oregon plea agreement was that an agreement would also be reached in Nevada,” Frederico wrote in his motion to rescind the plea.

But federal prosecutors said that's not true.

"The plea agreement itself expressly stated that the Nevada USAO was not a party to the agreement," Gabriel wrote, going on to quote the agreement: "'The defendant expressly understands that the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Nevada is not a party to this agreement.'"

The government said Payne knowingly agreed to these conditions regarding Nevada and should not be allowed to change his position now.

"His failure to secure a plea deal with the Nevada USAO cannot satisfy the fair and just standard for withdrawal of his otherwise valid guilty plea," Gabriel wrote.

He added that allowing Payne to renegotiate his plea following the acquittals in the initial Oregon trial would create "wiggle room" for other defendants who have pleaded guilty to seek reconsideration.

Further, Gabriel said allowing Payne to change his plea would greatly complicate the case in Nevada. Payne is scheduled to go to trial there in February, the same time a second round of defendants from the Malheur case are scheduled to go to trial in Oregon.

"As this Court is well aware, trial in this case has consumed tremendous time and resources," Gabriel wrote. "Permitting withdrawal at this late date will likely require that Payne be tried alone, sometime after his Nevada case."

Judge Brown will consider arguments from Payne's attorneys and the federal government before issuing a ruling.

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