PORTLAND, Ore. – Ammon Bundy testified Wednesday that he went through proper channels before leading an occupation of a national wildlife refuge, and he wasn't involved in a conspiracy when he arrived in Oregon.
Bundy and six others are charged with conspiring to impede federal workers at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge during the occupation.
Prosecutors contend the conspiracy began two months before the occupation, when Bundy met an Oregon sheriff on Nov. 5 to discuss the plight of two local ranchers heading to prison. Bundy said that was "absolutely not" true.
Bundy said a local sheriff protected his family during a 2014 standoff with federal agents at their Nevada ranch, and he figured Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward would do the same for ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond.
But the discussion with Ward got no results, and neither did his efforts to contact elected officials.
Much of Wednesday morning's action happened outside the presence of the jury, with lawyers battling over what videos and testimony would be allowed in front the panel. U.S. District Court Judge Anna Brown only allowed limited testimony of what Bundy said he was told by Dwight Hammond last fall, when the Hammond family distanced itself from Bundy.
Hammond, according to Bundy, said he was warned that if did not stop talking to Bundy he would have to report to prison early and be placed in a less desirable facility.
Hammond was also "worried about getting shot in the back of the head and the same thing happening to me," Bundy said from the stand, in a rehearsal of what he would testify.
The judge agreed with prosecutors that it hearsay evidence and not allowable. The decision angered Bundy's attorney, Marcus Mumford.
"Mr. Mumford, please calm down and don't yell at me," the judge said.
Mumford persisted, saying the jurors needed to why Bundy came to have his state of mind. "Stop pointing and yelling at me," Brown said.
Also Wednesday, Bundy testified about how his religious faith played a role in his decision to help the Hammonds. The judge, however, stopped him from reading scripture on the stand.
After the jury left for its lunch break, Bundy co-defendant Neil Wampler stood to applaud: "We all love you Ammon. Thank you so much for what you're doing."