Utah man charged with conspiracy in Oregon standoff

Indictment • Grand jury alleges conspirators made threats and brandished firearms in wildlife refuge takeover.

A Utah man accused of conspiracy in the armed takeover of a national wildlife refuge in Oregon is scheduled for a detention hearing Tuesday in federal court in Salt Lake City.

Wesley Kjar, a 32-year-old Manti resident, was one of nine defendants indicted this week by a federal grand jury in Portland, Oregon, on one count each of conspiracy to impede officers of the United States. Seven of them, including Kjar, had been arrested by Thursday evening and the remaining two were picked up later.

Kjar confirmed his identity at an appearance Thursday in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City and is being held in the Weber County Jail pending next week's hearing.

Another defendant, Blaine Cooper, of Humboldt, Ariz., had an appearance Friday in federal court in St. George. He confirmed his identity and reserved his arguments about detention until he is taken to Oregon for an arraignment.

The other defendants are Corey Lequieu, 44, of Fallon, Nev.; Neil Wampler, 68, of Los Osos, Calif.; Jason Charles Blomgren, 41, of Murphy, N.C.; Darryl William Thorn, 31, of Marysville, Wash.; Eric Lee Flores, 22, of Tuallip, Wash; Geoffrey Stanek; and Travis Cox. Ages and residences of Stanek and Cox were not immediately available.

The indictment alleges the nine defendants conspired with each other and with other people to prevent U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees "by force, intimidation, and threats" from carrying out their duties at their office at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

The conspiracy allegedly began about last Nov. 5 and continued through the date of the indictment, which was issued under seal on Wednesday and unsealed Thursday.

The indictment claims one or more of the nine defendants, along with at least one other conspirator, performed the following "overt acts" in Oregon:

• Warned the Harney County sheriff of "extreme civil unrest" if certain demands were not met.

• Occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge beginning Jan. 2 while using and carrying firearms.

• Brandished and carried firearms while on the premises of wildlife refuge and prevented federal officials from carrying out their duties.

• Refused to leave the refuge and threatened violence against anybody who attempted to remove them.

• Beginning about Nov. 5, recruited and encouraged others in person and through social media and other means of communication to participate in the conspiracy.

The last occupiers left the wildlife refuge without incident on Thursday, the day after federal agents surrounded the site.

The Associated Press reported at least 25 people have been indicted on federal conspiracy charges in the 41-day standoff over government control of vast expanses of Western land.

Among them is Ammon and Ryan Bundy, the sons of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, 69, who was arrested in a separate case late Wednesday at Portland International Airport, where he had arrived en route to support his sons

Nearly two years after a dangerous standoff in Bunkerville, Nev., over illegal grazing, federal authorities have charged Cliven Bundy in the confrontation between Bundy's armed supporters and Bureau of Land Management officers who were trying to impound his cattle that had long trespassed on public land.

Cliven Bundy made an initial appearance in Portland's U.S. District Court on Thursday, where prosecutors leveled six felonies against him, including conspiracy, assault on federal officers, firearms violations, obstruction of justice and extortion. No new court dates were immediately scheduled.

The charges don't reflect his misuse of public land dating back 20 years, when he stopped paying his grazing fees and ignored BLM regulations for his massive grazing allotment near the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Over the years, his herd ballooned to nearly 1,000 animals, about 10 times what his permit had allowed.

In March 2014, the BLM put Bundy on notice that it intended to remove the cattle. Claiming the federal government had no authority over his cattle, Bundy threatened a "range war" and promised to do "whatever it takes" to protect "his property," according to the complaint written by FBI agent Joel Willis.


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Authorities wait at the Narrows roadblock near the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016, near Burns, Ore. The last four occupiers of a national wildlife refuge in eastern Oregon surrendered Thursday. The holdouts were the last remnants of a larger group that seized the wildlife refuge nearly six weeks ago, demanding that the government turn over the land to locals and release two ranchers imprisoned for setting fires. (Thomas Boyd/The Oregonian via AP) MAGS OUT; TV OUT; NO LOCAL INTERNET; THE MERCURY OUT; WILLAMETTE WEEK OUT; PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT