BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Far-right activist Ammon Bundy says time he has spent campaigning to become the next governor of Idaho should count toward the community service he was ordered to perform after being convicted of obstructing police during his trespassing arrest at the state Capitol.
Aaron Welling, Bundy’s campaign treasurer, wrote late last month to court officials that Bundy has “completed 1,621 hours of public service” — citing what appear to be campaign activities.
In the letter submitted with Bundy's gubernatorial campaign letterhead, Welling said the candidate has traveled the state while encouraging people to “become more active in holding public officials accountable” and that Bundy also encouraged people to register to vote.
Bundy attracted international attention when he led a group of armed activists in the 2016 occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon to protest federal control of public lands.
He filed paperwork to run in the crowded Republican primary for Idaho governor next May. Incumbent Idaho Republican Gov. Brad Little is also expected to run but has not declared yet. Idaho is among the most conservative U.S. states and has not had a Democratic governor since 1995.
After Bundy's conviction in July of misdemeanor trespassing and resisting or obstructing officers at the Capitol, he was ordered to pay more than $1000 in fines and sentenced to eight days in jail. But the sentence was commuted to 40 hours of public service to be completed within 6 months.
When Welling was asked by the Idaho Press Newspaper whether the letter he sent to court officials about Bundy described community service or campaign activities, Welling responded: “It is what it is. If the courts don’t like it, the courts don’t like it.”
According to Idaho’s criminal code, sentencing “may include the rendering of labor and services to charities, governmental agencies, needy citizens and nonprofit organizations.”
The conviction stemmed from Bundy’s arrest on Aug. 25, 2020 when he refused to leave a Statehouse auditorium after officials ordered it to be cleared. Officers said Bundy also went limp and refused to stand and put his hands behind his back. Officers ultimately wheeled Bundy out of the Capitol building on a swivel chair.
The arrest came during a special session of the Idaho Legislature called for lawmakers to address issues related to the coronavirus pandemic.
Bundy was among dozens of demonstrators — many of them members of his “People’s Rights” organization — who attended the special session to protest because they were angry about coronavirus-related restrictions. During one protest, unmasked demonstrators joined by Bundy forced their way into a House gallery with limited seating, shattering a glass door.
Bundy’s arrest came the next day in an auditorium used for lawmakers considering a measure on coronavirus-related liability. The meeting was halted and switched to another room after more than 100 protesters shouted down the lawmakers. Most attendees then left, but Bundy and others decided to stay even after officers told them the room was closed to the public.
In the 2016 Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation, Bundy and others were eventually arrested, ending the 41-day occupation. An Oregon jury later acquitted Bundy of all federal charges in that case.
In 2014, Bundy, several of his brothers and his father led an armed standoff in Nevada with Bureau of Land Management agents who tried to confiscate his father’s cattle for grazing on public land without a permit. Ammon Bundy spent almost two years in federal custody before the case ended in a mistrial.
The Associated Press