A detention hearing in the 16-count Nevada indictment against independent broadcaster Pete Santilli has been rescheduled to Friday in federal court in Portland, where he’s in custody.
Federal Magistrate Judge Stacie F. Beckerman on Monday allowed for the delay after Santilli’s court-appointed lawyer, Thomas Coan, referenced a 59-page government detention memo that he and his client haven’t been able to fully review.
Santilli, 50, was arrested in late January on a federal conspiracy charge stemming from the armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge outside Burns.
He’s also been indicted in Nevada, accused of conspiring to assault federal officers, threaten federal law enforcement officers, obstruct justice, extort officers, and use and brandish a firearm in relation to a crime of violence stemming from the 2014 standoff with federal officers outside Cliven Bundy’s ranch near Bunkerville, Nevada.
In the Oregon case, U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown has ordered Santilli’s release to a halfway house in Portland with conditions that he undergo a mental health evaluation. But federal prosecutors from Nevada are arguing for his continued detention.
Coan has argued that Santilli isn’t violent and that he’s being punished for his First Amendment right to free speech and his “shock jock” bravado. Prosecutors have taken Santilli’s broadcast statements “out of context,” Coan said.
In their court filing, Nevada prosecutors argue that the facts in the Nevada indictment “independently justify” Santilli’s detention as a danger to the community and risk of flight. They describe him as part of the “organizing nucleus” of the conspiracy and as Cliven Bundy’s “shill” and “propagandist” who “beat the drums” over the Internet to incite and motivate followers to Nevada.
“Santilli was a key player in the build-up, organization and execution of an unprecedented, massive armed assault against federal law enforcement officers near Bunkerville, Nevada on April 12, 2014,” Nevada’s Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Myhre wrote.
The memo alleges Santilli recruited gunmen to the Bundy Ranch, threatened violence to law enforcement, helped lead an assault on U.S. Bureau of Land Management officers trying to roundup cattle on federal land, conducted reconnaissance of hotels where BLM officers were staying, delivered an ultimatum to the BLM’s agent in charge to leave the impound site and incited followers and gunmen to participate in an assault on federal officers on April 12, 2014.
The government cites an April 8, 2014, Facebook exchange between Santilli and co-defendant Blaine Cooper, with Cooper messaging Santilli that it was time to stop “all this huffing and puffing” over the microphones and “go down and do what we got to do” in Nevada. Santilli, the memo said, responded to Cooper, writing, “Let’s go to Nevada…Get a team of militia members.”
Prosecutors cite other statements Santilli made on his Twitter account under #BundyRanch, writing that night, “Time to kick the feds outta NV.”
The next day, the government contends, Santilli drove his car to block a lead vehicle in a U.S. Bureau of Land Management convoy on the way to a site where federal rangers planned to corral Cliven Bundy’s cattle. Santilli did back out of the way, but the stall allowed a crowd of about 30 or 40 people time to converge on the convoy, the memo said.
Santilli’s detention hearing has been rescheduled for 1:30 p.m. Friday in U.S. District Court in Portland.
Nevada prosecutor Myhre, who was in court in Portland, said he plans to play one video and one audiotape of Santilli at his detention hearing.
If he’s returned to Nevada on the pending indictment, he’ll have the chance to seek another hearing to argue for his release in federal court there.
In other action Monday, co-defendant Eric Lee Flores, 22, accused in the Malheur refuge conspiracy, was ordered to be released with conditions as soon as arrangements are made for his travel back to his home in western Washington. Federal prosecutors didn’t object to Flores’ release, saying he wasn’t a leader of the occupation but was photographed armed at the refuge and seen on “guard duty.”
— Maxine Bernstein