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Ammon Bundy, 15 others plead not guilty to Ore. refuge charges

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Ammon Bundy and another 15 defendants have pleaded not guilty to a federal conspiracy charge related to the armed takeover of an Oregon wildlife refuge.

U.S. District Judge Anna Brown reminded the defendants Wednesday that they are considered innocent until proven guilty. Several of the accused doubted that assertion. One of them, Jason Patrick, said: "You're the federal government; you're going to do whatever you want."

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The judge set an April 29 trial date, though that seems unlikely to occur. Assistant U.S. Attorney Ethan Knight said a superseding indictment with additional charges was likely.

Defense lawyers and their investigators plan to visit the refuge Thursday. It will be their first look at the scene of the 41-day standoff. The judge denied Bundy's request to tag along with his attorneys.

The occupation of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge began Jan. 2, with Bundy and his followers demanding the federal government turn public lands over to local control.

The Oregon standoff began when Ammon Bundy and his followers took over the refuge south of Burns. Federal agents, Oregon state troopers and sheriff's deputies monitored the occupation to avoid a confrontation. As the weeks passed, there were growing calls for the FBI to act.

They did, on Jan. 26. On that day, Ammon Bundy and other occupation leaders were heading for the town of John Day to give a talk on federal overreach.

FBI agents and Oregon state troopers stopped the group's two-vehicle convoy. Robert "LaVoy" Finicum was shot dead in that confrontation. The FBI says he was going for a pistol inside his jacket pocket. Ammon Bundy and four others were arrested.

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