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Prosecutors call final witness in Bundy’s trespassing trial: Idaho’s House speaker

From the June crime report: series
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Bedke

In this file photo, House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, answers a line of questioning during testimony to the Idaho Ethics and House Policy Committee.

BOISE — As Ammon Bundy’s jury trial continued Wednesday morning, a noteworthy Idaho politician was called to the stand: House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley. Bundy himself also took the stand Wednesday afternoon.

Bedke, who has served as speaker since 2012, was the final witness called by the state to testify regarding the charges levied against Bundy and co-defendant Aaron Schmidt. Both men are on trial on misdemeanor trespassing charges in connection with their arrests in the Idaho Statehouse on Aug. 25, 2020. Bundy also faces a misdemeanor count of resisting or obstructing officers.

On the witness stand, Bedke outlined how the Lincoln Auditorium, the room where Bundy and Schmidt were arrested, is one of the few areas of the Statehouse jointly controlled by the House and Senate.

A meeting for the House Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee was moved from the Lincoln Auditorium to another area of the Capitol after a man was arrested for refusing to leave a seating area designated for media members of the Capitol Correspondents Association. When the meeting started back up in another room, people in the Lincoln Auditorium were allowed to stay.

Bedke said that once the committee hearing ended, all rooms that had been open and broadcasting the hearing, including the Lincoln Auditorium, were ordered to be closed. The Lincoln Auditorium is not a room that is open to the public unless official business is being conducted there. It is closed and locked when not in use, Bedke said.

Sam Bishop, an attorney for Bundy, asked Bedke whether he thought Bundy broke the rules that day. The House speaker said that an area like the Lincoln Auditorium is open until the business being conducted is finished.

“People can’t just hang out there,” Bedke said. He said it was past 5 p.m. and “it was time to go,” because business had concluded.

Idaho State Police troopers told those in the room multiple times to leave, and Bundy and Schmidt were arrested after failing to do so, according to court testimony earlier in the week. At least one trooper also testified that Bundy became “dead weight” when troopers tried to place him under arrest, leading troopers to place him on a chair with wheels and remove him from the auditorium. An Ada County sheriff’s deputy testified that Bundy continued to be uncooperative when he arrived at the jail.

Bedke’s testimony ended at around 10 a.m. Wednesday, with the state resting its case. However, the trial continued.

Bundy’s counsel submitted a motion to dismiss the charges, arguing that the state had not met the burden of proof needed to continue with charges. Defense counsel claimed that Bedke did not have the jurisdiction to order the Lincoln Auditorium to be closed, arguing that it was a public space and the Statehouse’s closing time was 7 p.m.

After nearly an hour of hearing arguments, Magistrate Judge David Manweiler denied the motion to dismiss, ruling that the state had shown the elements needed to justify the trespassing and resisting arrest charges.

Manweiler also found sufficient evidence to show that Bedke did have the authority to order people removed from the Lincoln Auditorium, saying the Statehouse’s general closing time does not mean all areas are open to the public before then.

Defense attorneys went on to call their own witnesses, which included Idaho Republican Reps. Christy Zito and Judy Boyle, who both said they’ve known the Lincoln as a room to be open to the public.

Bundy told the court that he believed he had the right to be in the auditorium and that his arrest was a display to “show people who was in charge.” He also said he did not regret his actions.

The trial is set to continue into Thursday. On Tuesday, Manweiler hinted at the possibility of extending the trial into next week if more time is needed.

Bedke and Bundy are currently running for executive office as Republicans. News of Bundy filing to run for Idaho governor broke on May 21, while Bedke announced his run for lieutenant governor on May 27.

Bundy has gained notoriety for armed standoffs with law enforcement, including the 2016 armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon.

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