- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 14, 2016

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - A change of plea hearing has been scheduled for a man arrested following the Ammon Bundy-led occupation of a national wildlife refuge in Oregon.

Jason Blomgren, 42, of Murphy, North Carolina, is set to appear in a federal courtroom in Portland on Thursday. He earlier pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to impede officers of the United States and possession of a firearm in a federal facility.

Blomgren was granted pre-trial release in March after his attorney argued that he needed to go back to North Carolina to help care for a son who has autism. Blomgren joined the occupation about a week in after reading about it online.

Court records show a federal judge approved spending for Blomgren’s transportation from North Carolina ahead of Thursday’s hearing.

More than two dozen occupiers were arrested after the 41-day standoff that ended Feb. 11. Two of them - Corey Lequieu and Eric Lee Flores - have already accepted deals in which they pleaded guilty to conspiracy in exchange for the dismissal of the firearm charge.

Prosecutors have recommended a 2 ½-year prison sentence for Lequieu, who has a prior felony, and six months of home detention for Flores, a first-time offender.

Bundy and his remaining co-defendants are scheduled to appear in court Wednesday for a status hearing in their case.

The trial is scheduled to begin with jury selection on Sept. 7, but U.S. District Court Judge Anna J. Brown on Monday granted a motion for three men to be tried later. They are Sean Anderson of Riggins, Idaho; Jake Ryan of Plains, Montana; and Jon Ritzheimer of Peoria, Arizona. All waived their right to a speedy trial, likely pushing their cases into 2017.

Brown’s order says she will wait until August to set a trial date for them and any other defendant who seeks to waive his or her right to a speedy resolution.

The armed takeover and ensuing standoff at the southeast Oregon bird sanctuary began Jan. 2 and included the fatal shooting by police of rancher and occupation spokesman Robert “LaVoy” Finicum during a traffic stop.

Bundy and his followers wanted the federal government to relinquish control of Western lands and free two Oregon ranchers imprisoned for setting fires. Those demands were not met.


Follow Steven DuBois at twitter.com/pdxdub

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